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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Storms, employee shortages, criticism for former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and more news on Monday.

The Danube in Vienna
There should be calm after Sunday's storm today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Storm Maya hit Austria on Sunday

Storm Maya moved across Austria from the west on Sunday, with heavy gusts of wind, hail and rain causing damage and flooding in Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Salzburg. Firefighters were busy pumping out basements in Vorarlberg after 35 litres of rain per square metre fell in Bregenz in just 30 minutes, a fifth of the average rainfall in June.

In Tyrol strong gusts of wind knocked down trees. Hailstones caused more havoc in Achental and Ausserfern. In Salzburg, a number of fire brigades had to be called out because of the flooding of streets and cellars, broadcaster ORF reports. Vienna also experienced heavy rainfall and thunderstorms through the night.

Employee shortages continue to hit Austria

Despite high energy prices and the Ukraine war, the job market is booming in Austria. The May unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, the lowest in 14 years. Around 138,000 job vacancies were registered with the public employment service AMS alone last month – a new all-time high. According to the ÖVP-Wirtschaftsbund (business association), which has a better overall view of employment,  there are more than 281,000 vacancies throughout Austria, 40,000 of them in tourism alone.

According to Der Standard newspaper there are shortages of caterers, accountants, plumbers, nurses, electricians, plumbers, locksmiths, care staff, construction workers and tourism staff throughout Austria.

The Labour Minister Martin Kocher said recently in an interview with Der Standard that the number of people entering the tourism industry has halved in the past two years.  Due to an ageing population, Statistics Austria expects the number of people of working age to shrink by 170,000 by 2030. 

READ MORE: Jobs in Austria: What types of jobs are in demand and where?

Calls for government to discuss Austria’s neutrality

Austria’s opposition left wing SPÖ and far right FPÖ parties have  joined together to call on Austria’s government to discuss the effects of the war in Ukraine on Europe and Austrian neutrality. The parties submitted a request calling for the Standing Subcommittee of the National Defence Committee to be convened,, broadcaster ORF reports.

Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is criticised over statement on Ukraine war

Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP)  has been criticised after giving an interview to the Swiss tabloid Blick in which he said “Every war has come to an end with negotiations.” Austria’s Greens, Neos and SPÖ parties have accused him of a lack of historical knowledge. 

Military expert Gerald Karner wrote on Twitter: “If you let a conceited uneducated explain the world. World War II ended in an unconditional surrender.” The writer Julya Rabinowich tweeted, “The negotiations with Hitler were excellent!”

Kurz was also asked about corruption allegations against him, which he dismissed as “fake news”. He said he had no plans for a political comeback at present.

 ÖVP General Secretary criticised by coalition party over refugee tweets

A tweet by ÖVP General Secretary Laura Sachslehner over the number of people claiming asylum have caused criticism from Green party coalition partners. Sachslehner tweeted: “Austria suffers from the second highest per capita burden of asylum applications in the EU.” She added that the EU should not be “blinded” by the “necessary neighbourly help” for Ukraine and be tempted to “open the borders to all migrants”, calling for a distinction to be made between displaced Ukrainians and all other migrants, “who mostly want to go to Austria for economic reasons.” 

The Green Member of the National Council, Lukas Hammer, replied, stating: “I suffer from so much contempt for human beings in a tweet. Stop saying that about people seeking protection, Laura!”

According to Austria’s Ministry of the Interior, a total of 16,000 asylum applications have already been made in 2022, an increase of 138% on the previous year. The vast majority of asylum seekers come from Afghanistan and Syria. This does not include displaced people from Ukraine who can receive care and access to the labour market without an application for asylum.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Heatwave peaks today, Lake Neusiedl at record low levels, calls to increase mileage allowance, expert advises on fourth Covid-19 jab and more news from Austria on Thursday.

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

Current heatwave will peak today

The current heatwave will peak in the east today (Thursday). It could reach 37 degrees today, and will be followed by a deluge of rain. It has been above 30 degrees every day since last Saturday in Austria. 

Water shortages vary across Austria

The situation with water shortages varies across Austria following this year’s long dry summer. The situation is particularly precarious in Burgenland, where  Lake Neusiedl is currently 114.94 meters above the level of the Adriatic Sea. This is the lowest water level since records began in 1965. The Seewinkel has also been hit hard, according to broadcaster ORF .

However, in Vienna the water levels are low in the Wienerwald streams and the Danube, but not extremely so.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

New allegations against Hygiene Austria

A new scandal has hit Hygiene Austria and Palmers, the company which produces Austria’s FFP2 masks. The Standard newspaper alleges that Palmers may have carried out  tax evasion, using fake receipts. Up to 693,000 euros of customs and import sales taxes may have been evaded, the paper claims. Palmers and Hygiene Austria reject the allegations.

The company previously hit the headlines after ordering masks from China which it mislabeled as “made in Austria” during the pandemic. 

Possible reductions in energy bills for Altbau

There are plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws. The Ministry of Justice, led by Alma Zadic (Greens), is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating for people could be implemented. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has pointed out tenants have no power to change their heating systems and suffer from high bills as a result. Kogler also intends to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems, broadcaster ORF reports.

Calls to increase mileage allowance in Austria

The GPA union is calling for the Kilometergeldes (mileage allowance ) to be increased from the current 42 to 60 cents. This is a lump-sum payment for costs incurred when you use your own car for business trips. According to GPA chairwoman Barbara Teiber, speaking to ORF, there hasn’t been an adjustment for inflation for 14 years. 

READ MORE: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Recommendation to get fourth Covid-19 jab before autumn wave

According to the vaccination expert Herwig Kollaritsch, people should get their fourth vaccinations now before Covid-19 starts to pick up again with the start of school, full workplaces and cooler temperatures. He said the new CoV variants BA4 and BA5, meant people have less immunity following an infection. If the last vaccination was six months ago, he would now recommend getting a fourth jab. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to wait for the new modified vaccine which targets the Omicron variant, which was recently approved for use in Great Britain as people risk becoming infected while waiting for the vaccine, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Pension increase to be announced today

The government is set to announce the statutory pension increase today (Thursday). The increase is expected to be at least 5.8 percent. Negotiations will start next week on whether there will be full cost-of-living adjustments or not. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) has previously said that the government could add another two to 2.5 percent to the around 5.8 percent. However, this would still mean that it would be below inflation.

READ MORE: Why (and when) double-digit inflation is set to hit Austria

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