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

The Local Austria
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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
A giraffe eats a heart-shaped willow at the Schönbrunn zoo in Vienna (Copyright: Daniel Zupanc)

Vienna court upholds seizure of Federal Chancellery data, Austria's gas dependency on Russia raises the alarm, Health Minister urges vaccination amid measles surge and more news from Austria on Tuesday.


Vienna court upholds seizure of Federal Chancellery data

The Vienna Higher Regional Court (OLG) ruled in favour of the Public Prosecutor's Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA), affirming the decision to seize email inboxes, electronic documents, and personal drives belonging to staff members who worked in specific departments of the chancellery during the tenure of the ÖVP chancellor.

The court's decision stems from a complaint filed by a member of Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler's cabinet (ÖVP), contesting the confiscation of her data by the WKStA, the newspaper Der Standard reported. The case is related to the advertisements affair, implicating former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and his former advisors in allegations of embezzlement and corruption.

The investigation, initiated in fall 2021, included searches of the Chancellery, where it was discovered that critical figures had extensively deleted their email records. Subsequent efforts aimed to reconstruct communications through emails from former colleagues, prompting objections from the Chancellery on the grounds of procedural overreach and infringement of personal rights.

READ ALSO: Austria's Sebastian Kurz implicated by former ally in corruption scandal

Living in Austria: The best places to take skiing lessons on the slopes

Even if you did not grow up near snowy mountains or had ski classes offered in schools like many Austrians, it is never too late to learn or improve your skills.

Austria's gas dependency on Russia raises the alarm

Austria faces a concerning dilemma as its reliance on Russian gas hits record levels despite a notable reduction in overall gas imports over the past two years, Die Presse reported. In December 2023, a staggering 98 percent of gas imports originated from Russia, up from 79 percent in February 2022. This dependency on Russian gas has prompted Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler to advocate for urgent action.

At a recent media briefing, Gewessler emphasised the need for energy companies to diversify their gas sources or face potential consequences. She proposed a "diversification obligation for gas suppliers" to ensure readiness to switch suppliers promptly. 

Despite efforts to secure alternative gas sources, such as Norwegian gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG), Austria's dependency on Russian imports has surged since early 2023. Challenges in verifying the origin of LNG complicate efforts to ensure diversification.

READ ALSO: Austrians warned as country remains dependent on Russia for gas supplies


Vienna residents urged to renew expired parking stickers

Vienna residents holding parking stickers are reminded to renew their permits promptly, as over 97,000 stickers are set to lose their validity in March. Following the extension of the short-term parking zone citywide in March 2022, all districts issued parking stickers, resulting in uniform parking regulations for approximately 390,000 permit holders.

As of the end of February 2024, 97,169 parking permits are due to expire across Vienna, with 52,908 already renewed. District offices urge residents who have not yet applied for a new parking permit to do so without delay. Applications can be submitted either in person at the relevant district office or conveniently online.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Vienna parking system work?


Vienna Zoo offers Valentine's Day Special

Vienna Zoo is once again celebrating Valentine's Day with a special offer on February 14, 2024. Couples can enjoy two tickets for the price of one, priced at 27 euros, by using the keyword "Valentine's Day." Additionally, visitors can participate in a complimentary one-hour guided tour at 2 p.m., exploring the fascinating love lives of the zoo animals.

Zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck highlights the diverse pair relationships among the animal residents. While gibbons exhibit monogamous behaviour, living in small family groups, giraffes showcase a different social structure, with females and their young forming loose herds and bulls moving between groups in search of mates.

Adding a touch of romance, a volunteer at the zoo crafted heart-shaped enrichments for both gibbons and giraffes, filled with sweet fruits and vegetables or dried leaves, respectively. The animals enjoyed exploring these special treats, engaging visitors with their natural behaviours.

READ ALSO: Do Austrians get all romantic for Valentine's Day?


Health Minister urges vaccination amid measles surge

Amid a resurgence of measles cases in Austria, the Health Minister is calling on parents to ensure their children's vaccination records are up to date. Emphasising the importance of vaccinations, the Minister urges families to catch up on any missed doses to protect against preventable diseases.

The Ministry of Health highlights that measles vaccination is provided free of charge as part of the national vaccination program, with recommended administration starting at nine months of age. However, despite this availability, Austria has yet to achieve the World Health Organization's target vaccination coverage rate of 95% with two doses, necessary for long-term measles eradication.

Vaccination coverage rates have fluctuated in recent years, with lower uptake observed during the pandemic in 2021. The Ministry acknowledges delays in measles vaccinations among children and gaps in coverage among young adults.

To address these challenges, the Ministry plans to enhance awareness through informational campaigns, underscoring the severity of measles-related complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and encephalitis.

READ ALSO: Which groups are most vaccine hesitant in Austria?


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