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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Traffic jams and packed trains warning, concerns over gas, no subway for Graz and more news on Wednesday.

Traffic in Austria
Roads are expected to be busy over the coming days in Austria. (Photo by CALLE TOERNSTROEM / AFP)

Packed trains and traffic jams expected in coming days

Trains and roads in Austria are expected to be packed over the coming days as people head off on their holidays. The ÖBB train website warns people should make a reservation on trains before travelling, and says it will provide up to 10,000 additional seats on Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi.

The number of train travellers in Austria has increased sharply due to the waning of the pandemic, the Klima ticket and the high cost of petrol, broadcaster ORF reports. 

According to the Austrian motorist club ÖAMTC, drivers can expect “heavy traffic” over the long weekend. 

READ MORE:

Graz decides against subway

The city of Graz has finally decided against building a subway, but has instead decided to build two new S-Bahns instead and a tunnel through the city centre, it was revealed on Tuesday. Experts spent a year examining five concepts before coming up with the decision. The subway was the most expensive option, and would have cost more than 3.5 billion euros, whereas the two S-Bahn tunnel projects are significantly cheaper, costing  2 .2 billion euros, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Experts weigh in over mask requirement

As The Local reported on Tuesday, masks will no longer be required in Austria’s public transport and essential retail from the beginning of June. As usual, Vienna will keep stricter rules in place than the rest of the country, and require masks on public transport. However, experts meeting in Vienna from the research platform “Covid-19 Future Operations” on Tuesday called for the government to be prepared for the “worst case scenario” in the autumn and winter. 

Some experts were critical of the relaxed rules in place from June, with virologist Dorothea van Laer saying she would have kept the mask requirement in pharmacies and in essential shops in order to be able to protect vulnerable groups, broadcaster ORF reports.

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Concerns over emergency plans for gas

Businesses are raising concerns that no emergency plans are in place in the event Russia stops delivering gas to Austria. Austria is one of the most dependent countries on Russian gas in the EU. Der Standard reports Voestalpine, a large steel company based in Linz, has had only “sporadic” talks with the government about the possible crisis. Katharina Koßdorff, Managing Director of the Food Industry Association says there are no “concrete emergency plans” for this scenario, adding the Austrian food industry is almost 100 percent reliant on Russian gas. 

Austria has started to buy gas for its strategic reserve. On Monday the government spent almost one billion euros on 7.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas. Leonore Gewessler’s climate ministry, which is responsible for energy, said it was unclear where the gas comes from, as there are no proofs of origin on the gas market. It can be assumed that Russian gas makes up part of what has been purchased, according to a spokesman for Gewessler (Greens).

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

Van der Bellen speaks out over citizenship and Austria’s military

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper he believes in making it easier to become naturalized as an Austrian. In the interview he said the hurdles for obtaining citizenship were currently “too high”. He has also given an interview to Der Standard in which he says Austria should spend more on its army and increase the number of diplomats, though he draws the line at joining NATO, arguing Austria does not need to be so “bellicose”.

Van der Bellen has gathered further support for his aim to be re-elected in the autumn from the ÖVP government team. Although the People’s Party does not officially recommend his election, State Secretary Florian Tursky (ÖVP)  has said he would support his fellow Tyrolean. However, Van der Bellen will face competition from the head of Austria’s Beer Party Dominik Wlazny, who also goes by the name of his alter ego, Marco Pogo, as well as candidates from the anti-vaccination MFG party and the far right FPÖ. 

READ ALSO: Could presidential criticism lead to Austrian citizenship rule changes?

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Plans to introduce electricity price brake, deadline for energy voucher extended, church contributions under fire from FPÖ party and more news from Austria on Monday.

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

Electricity price brake expected in October

There are signs that an electricity price brake may come into effect later in the year in Austria, meaning a certain quota of electricity would be made available for each household at a certain price. The Austrian  Finance Minister Brunner (ÖVP) has said that the ÖVP-Green government is currently in the process of working on this electricity price brake.  He expects a corresponding law to be passed in September and that it will come into force in October, according to broadcaster ORF

Last week, Vienna’s finance minister Peter Hanke told the Standard newspaper that people should set their heating to 19 degrees and suggested the capital’s museums might be set to a lower temperature to reduce energy costs.

READ ALSO: Austria announces electricity price cap from autumn as prices soar

Energy voucher: Deadlines extended

By the end of June, every household in Austria should have received an energy voucher worth 150 euros, which can be redeemed and given to their electricity supplier. Now the deadline to request a voucher has been extended until the end of October. There is also more time to redeem the voucher, until the end of the year instead of the end of October. The voucher cannot be redeemed in 2023. 

Households that have not yet redeemed their voucher or have to apply for a new one, for example because the voucher was lost or did not arrive, have more time to do so. New vouchers can now be requested from the energy cost compensation hotline on 050 233 798 until the end of October. 

READ MORE: How to claim your €150 energy discount in Austria 

Right wing FPÖ Party calls for pause in church contribution payments

The right wing FPÖ party leader Herbert Kickl appealed to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn at the weekend to suspend the payments of Catholic church contributions in Austria for an indefinite period in view of the  current extreme wave of inflation. The Archdiocese of Vienna replied that It has been “practice in the Catholic Church for years”, to take into account the individual situation of its contributors.

“Of course, nothing will change in the current crisis or in the future,” stated the press office of the Archdiocese of Vienna, according to Kathpress.

Kickl had previously said that Schönborn, as head of the church, should know “how poverty and existential fears can affect people – and for many of them every cent that they have or don’t have at their disposal counts”, broadcaster ORF reports, adding it was very difficult to get an exemption from contributions. 

READ MORE: What is Austria’s church tax and how do I avoid paying it? 

 FPÖ party rocked by reports found on former MP’s phone 

The FPÖ party has had what the Standard newspaper described as “a horror week” after advertisements briefing against top officials in FPÖ Vienna was found on the phone of  former FPÖ MP Hans-Jörg Jenewein. Vienna FPÖ boss Dominik Nepp said the report was “completely irrelevant”, while noting that the matter would be “clarified internally”. The Vienna FPÖ head also criticised the media, which he said had exaggerated the issue, arguing that an attempt was being made to provoke a dispute within the party, broadcaster ORF reports. 

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