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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Inflation at 7.2 percent, Austria tries to reduce dependence on Russian gas and more news on Thursday.

People sit in the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria .
Enjoy the sun today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Inflation rose to 7.2 percent in April

Inflation in Austria has continued to accelerate. According to Statistics Austria, the inflation rate in April was 7.2 percent – ​​the last time there was such a high inflation rate was in October 1981. Expenditure on transport and housing accounted for three-fifths of inflation. Compared to the previous month of March, the price level rose by 0.4 percent. “In addition to fuel and energy products, rising food prices are currently also responsible for the rise in inflation,” said Statistics Austria Director General Tobias Thomas on Wednesday.


Austria plans to reduce dependence on Russian gas by 10 percent

Austria is to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by ten percent (taking it to 70 percent) by connecting the Haidach gas storage facility in Salzburg to the Austrian gas network before the end of this year. This  strategic gas reserve, which previously served Bavaria in nearby Germany, is to be increased by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This will cover the gas consumption of two winter months, broadcaster ORF

The additional gas volume of the strategic reserve should come from non-Russian sources, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) has promised. 

In addition, the National Council passed a regulation on Thursday allowing the state to commission suppliers with the provision and storage of natural gas. Industrial companies that store gas are to be given collateral. They should also be able to dispose of their gas reserves themselves in the event of a crisis. Only when system stability requires it does the state access these reserves in exchange for compensation.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Labour Chamber raises concerns that a third of Viennese adults do not have Austrian citizenship

Austria’s Labour Chamber (Arbeitkammer) has pointed out many people working and living in Vienna are excluded from the democratic process, because they are not Austrian citizens. In a thread on Twitter, the organisation noted that 30 percent of Viennese people over 16 do not have Austrian citizenship, including many young people who were born in Austria. In Austria, if your parents are not Austrian, you must submit proof you have lived legally in Austria for five years and have been resident for 10 years, according to the Chamber. You must also prove that your net income (after bills, housing costs and loan repayments) is above €1,030.49. The chamber points out only a third of Austrians themselves meet these stringent requirements. 


Warnings over large numbers of train passengers on upcoming public holidays 

Austria’s train company ÖBB is warning “very large number of passengers” are expected to use the railways around the forthcoming holidays of Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. It says it has expanded its capacities as much as possible and additional staff have been deployed, but warns if too many passengers board trains this could lead to the train journey being interrupted “for safety reasons” in “exceptional cases” and passengers without a seat or reservation having to leave the train, according to ÖBB. ORF reports the company recommends making a reservation before travel, especially on the most popular connections – even if you have a climate ticket which offers unlimited annual train travel in Austria. 

Bavaria clashes with Tyrol

Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) has called on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to initiate infringement proceedings against the Republic of Austria. He claims checks made by Austria in Tyrol before trucks can use the Brenner Pass and the practice of ​​Blockabfertigung (block handling) trucks are causing systematic traffic problems in Bavaria and called for talks in Brussels. Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter (ÖVP) said this demand was “insane”.

Broadcaster ORF reports that there are fears that Munich will also be affected by the same issues as the state of Salzburg is now also examining similar solutions at the Walserberg border crossing. Bernreiter wrote to the President of the Commission to say a solution must finally be found for Alpine transit traffic,: “Residents and truck drivers have been suffering from traffic congestion for far too long.” The problem must be “solved constructively and together”.

Calls to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister who danced with Putin at her wedding

German MEPs have called on the EU Council to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissl (FPÖ), who notoriously danced with Vladimir Putin at her wedding in 2018. Putin also gave her sapphire earrings worth €50,000 as a wedding gift. The Austrian journalist Armin Wolf told the ZIB programme sanctions could be put in place today (Thursday).

Vienna launched campaign against flushing rubbish down the toilet 

Vienna has launched a campaign to stop people throwing cooking oil and wet wipes down the toilet, after revealing around 20 tonnes of “solids” are removed by the municipal sewage treatment plant in Simmering..

A website provides information about the correct disposal methods for all types of waste. With a “rinse”, users can test their knowledge of what is allowed in the toilet and what is not. A song, performed by five “stool gang” characters, tackles the subject in an easily accessible way and will be used on the radio and in social networks. It will also be shown on adverts in restaurant toilets.  Pouring cooking oil down the sink leads to rats and fatbergs, the city pointed out.

Restaurants and Inns in Vienna may have to put their prices up by up to 20 percent

People wishing to go to Vienna’s inns and restaurants will face bills which are up to 20 percent higher by the end of the year due to increased energy and food prices, the  Vienna Chamber of Commerce has said. Peter Dobcak, chairman of the specialist group for gastronomy in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce told Wien Heute (Vienna Today) on Wednesday that the industry was “torn” because it wanted to reduce the burden on people suffering due to high energy prices, but at the same time, had to keep businesses afloat.

The restaurateur Hans Stöckl, who runs the Gasthaus Nestroy in the second district, said he was struggling with the skyrocketing electricity prices, telling ORF that each months he faced additional costs of up to 900 euros due to this factor alone. Some foods such as cooking oil, flour, eggs and dairy products, have also tripled in price.

There are also concerns that people will stop going out to eat due to the cost of living crisis.

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For members


Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

More thunderstorms, no recession expected in Austria, Covid infections increase and more news from Austria on Thursday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Covid-19 infection risk increases

Austria’s Covid traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states in Austria, with no states currently designated as “low risk”. The states of Vienna and Burgenland, both governed by the opposition SPÖ party, have now been designated orange or high risk level. However, this assessment should be treated with caution, as the commission no longer calculates the risk factor taking into account the number of tests carried out. Vienna and Burgenland test the most, and have the highest numbers of infections recorded. 

Monitoring of sewage shows the highest rate of infection is currently in Lower Austria, which remains in the yellow or medium risk zone, along with all the other federal states. 

Third night of storms in a row

For the third night in succession, violent storms hit Austria. Fire brigades were out in Upper Austria in the Steyr and Kirchdorf region and parts of the Mühlviertel. The cleanup in Carinthia continues, with the army using heavy equipment to remove rock from the Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach areas following mudslides. However, Tamsweg in Salzburg’s Lunga was spared from major damage to its buildings following flooding.

READ MORE: One dead, one missing in Austrian landslides

Austria unlikely to enter recession this year

Austria is not likely to enter a recession unless gas supplies from Russia stop coming into the country, the chief economist at Unicredit Bank Austria, Stefan Bruckbauer, predicts. This would not only paralyse large parts of industrial production, but would also drive up gas prices and general inflation. He told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper he does not want to rule out stagnation for the second half of the year. The Euro area is also not predicted to enter recession, according to a recent European Central Bank (ECB) survey of 29 economists. Economic experts at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) expect GDP growth of 3.8 percent in Austria for this year and 1.9 percent for the following year.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Zelensky and George Clooney to speak at  4Gamechangers Festival

The ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address an audience in Vienna live tonight at the 4Gamechangers Festival along with Austria’s  Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). The performance can be seen on TV on ORF III and in ORF’s  live stream.

After Zelensky was not invited to speak in Parliament, it would be his first public live appearance in Austria since the beginning of the war.

The Hollywood star and human rights activist George Clooney is also a guest at the  4Gamechangers Festival. In the late afternoon he will speak on the future of human rights, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Explained: Why Austria won’t allow Ukraine’s Zelensky to speak before parliament

A Biedermeier house in Vienna is to be destroyed for economic reasons

A Biedermeier house in the seventh district  Vienna dating back to 1803/4 is to be destroyed under a building code called the “economic readiness for demolition”. This means if the costs of renovating a building  cannot be covered by the income from the property after renovation, it can be knocked down. The Biedermeier house together with the adjoining buildings at Kaiserstraße 25-29, forms part of an old town which  has been marked as a protection zone, and is under a monument protection law dating back to 1973.

Older buildings in Vienna have a rental cap, which means it is easier for developers to make money by destroying them and building a new larger building with more floors, which will not be subject to the rent rules. It also means there is no need to carry out costly renovations on the facade. Vienna’s Monument Protection Initiative is calling for the abolition of “economic demolition maturity” and thus an end to such promotion of demolition and new construction, broadcaster ORF reports. It warns that if this is not done, Vienna could lose most of its historic architecture. 

Charities are running out of money to help Ukrainian refugees

The charity Volkshilfe,  which issues supermarket vouchers to Ukrainian refugees, says donations have plummeted and it will no longer be able to help people buy food. Refugees currently receive six euros a day from basic services, which is not enough, charities say. Three weeks ago, Austria’s Council of Ministers decided to increase the allowance, but this has yet to be  implemented. The subsistence allowance is to be increased from 215 to 260 euros: for each refugee that would mean around two euros more per day for groceries, broadcaster ORF reports.