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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Reaction to end of mandatory vaccination law, Austria classified as 'medium risk', Austrians unenthusiastic about EU expansion and more news from Austria on Friday.

Danube festival
Vienna's "Danube-island" Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

Reaction to end of mandatory Covid vaccination law

As The Local reported on Thursday, Austria has decided to scrap its mandatory Covid vaccination law, with health minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) saying the omicron variant had “changed the situation”. He said the law making it obligatory to be vaccinated had opened up divisions in society, and abolishing mandatory vaccination meant a step towards normality and learning to live with Covid-19. The “Austrian Corona Panel” research project, which has been researching the pandemic since the beginning of the Corona crisis, will also be discontinued.

Austria’s opposition parties have had mixed reactions to the news. Left wing SPÖ party health spokesman Phillip Kucher described the u-turn as a climax of “government failure”. The decision was well received by the far right FPÖ party, which has been pushing for an end to compulsory vaccination for months. According to the liberal party NEOS, the Government “screwed up” compulsory vaccination from the start,  broadcaster ORF reports.

READ MORE: Austria to scrap mandatory covid vaccination law

Austria classified as ‘medium risk’ again

Austria has been re-classified as yellow or medium risk by the country’s Covid-19 traffic light commission, due to the increasing number of infections in the current coronavirus wave. 

The federal states of Burgenland, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna are also rated as medium risk. The federal states of Carinthia, Upper Austria and Styria remain green-yellow, or low risk.

READ MORE: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

Tyrol set for state elections in autumn

Tyrol looks set to hold state elections on September 25th. Following the resignation of Governor Günther Platter (ÖVP), the state parliament will meet in the morning for a special session to decide on its early dissolution. Broadcaster ORF reports the coalition parties ÖVP and Greens will find the necessary two-thirds majority of the 36 MPs to call an early election.

Majority of Austrians do not support the expansion of the EU 

While the majority of EU citizens support accelerated EU expansion because of the war in Ukraine, in Austria, however, the mood is different, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the EU Parliament. Half of those surveyed are against the rapid admission of new countries, 45 percent are in favour and five percent are undecided.

Only in Slovakia (36 percent), Bulgaria (40 percent) and Slovenia (44 percent) do fewer respondents than in Austria support accelerated admission of new countries to the EU.

Nehammer says Bosnia-Herzegovina has a chance to get EU accession candidate status

Bosnia-Herzegovina could still get the official EU accession candidate status this year if it implements important electoral law and constitutional reforms, said Austria’s Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer after discussions at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. According to the Chancellor, if Bosnia-Herzegovina now completes the 14 reform points it has been asked to address, EU accession negotiations would be possible.

Failed ‘Kaufhaus Österreich’ project winds up with losses of almost one million euros.

The “Kaufhaus Österreich” project launched during 2020 under the former Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) is to be ended on July 1st. It was originally intended as an online retailer directory designed to bring online business to local businesses when shops were closed during the pandemic. Then the page was changed into an information platform for traders. The Digital State Secretariat estimates the cost of the failed project at 946,068.54 euros, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Increasing numbers of accidents on Vienna’s e-scooters

In Vienna, the number of traffic accidents involving  e-scooters is increasing, especially involving male drivers aged under 40. Since the beginning of the year, the police have documented 50 traffic accidents, including a 13-year-old teenager who suffered serious head injuries when he collided with a tram in Favoriten, broadcaster ORF reports. Children and young people are allowed to drive an e-scooter alone from the age of twelve and if they have a cycling license. People are advised to wear helmets and bright clothing when using the scooters. 

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Authorities looking to curb illegal racing, energy prices rising, traffic expected ahead of the extended weekend and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

The City of Vienna is looking for ways to deal with illegal races across its street, especially in its 19th-Döbling district, where accidents happen too often, daily Der Standard reported.

Some measures have already been taken, including adding concrete guard walls in parking lots where racers meet and adding a 30km/h speed zone.

Now, Viennese authorities want changes in laws at a federal level, specifically a way to legally confiscate cars in cases of serious infractions or multiple offences.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Rising energy costs

Austrian households paid 45 percent more for energy in June than in the same month the year before, Die Presse says. The prices of fuels, heating oil and gas have risen sharply. Wood pellets and firewood are also more expensive.

When it comes to electricity and gas, many providers are also increasing prices.

In addition to the gas crisis, other factors also affected the price of electricity: drought in large parts of Europe reduces production in river power plants. Besides that, many nuclear power plants are not in operation due to technical defects; others have to be throttled because the rivers used for cooling lead were either too warm or had too little water.

“The high prices are a signal for diversification towards more wind power, photovoltaics, and geothermal energy and at the same time, more energy efficiency and energy saving”, Austria’s Energy Agency said.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Austria’s postal service announces prices increases

Austria wants to reopen its embassy in Baghdad

Austria is looking to reopen its embassy in Iraq by September 1st, daily Kurier reported. The Austrian ambassador left Baghdad in January 1991, with other Western diplomats, due to security reasons.

According to the Kurier, the embassy in Baghdad is now to be “housed in a protected, international area as a first step”, with security forces hired locally. The authorities believe permanent representation in the country will be a “decisive advantage” for Austrian companies and organisations.

Additionally, a specific officer in the embassy should inform Vienna of “current developments and the prevailing situation in Iraq” and, in particular, any news on the topic of migration.

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Traffic and troubles for the extended weekend ahead

Austria’s ÖAMTC expects heavy travel on the country’s transit routes ahead of the long weekend and warned motorists to expect traffic jams and queues by the borders.

The transport club said many travellers continue to drive south while some are already driving in the opposite direction returning from vacation. The extended weekend due to the Monday holiday (Mariä Himmelfahrt) also favours day trips and short breaks, especially with the nice weather forecast.

The worst traffic should be divided into Sunday and Monday, ÖAMTC warns.

READ ALSO: ‘Bad and hasty drivers’: Your verdict on scrapping Austrian autobahn speed limits

Heat and thunderstorms this Friday in Austria

Though the day starts sunny in most of Austria, the afternoon should bring showers and thunderstorms, especially above the mountains. In the east, it should be more stable and sunny, Austria’s meteorologic agency ZAMG said. Afternoon temperatures will be between 22C and 27C.

During the evening hours, the rain will subside and dry weather generally prevails. Low temperatures will be between 8C and 17C.

“In Vienna, sunny weather prevails, even if clouds seem denser. Short rains cannot be ruled out”, ZAMG says. Afternoon temperatures will be around 27C. The night will be around 16C.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

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