Today in Austria For Members

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

The Local Austria
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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
The Austrian national flag is seen as the training pitch of Austria's national football team. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)

Chancellor Nehammer calls for strengthening Secret Services, Austrian rejection of EU membership declines, Austrian Airlines negotiations with workers continue and more news from Austria on Friday.


Chancellor Nehammer calls for strengthening Secret Services

In response to the espionage affair involving former state security officer Egisto Ott, Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) has proposed granting expanded powers to the secret services.

Nehammer emphasised the need to bolster the capabilities of intelligence services alongside any proposed revisions to the espionage laws. Speaking to journalists during his visit to Paris, he argued that a mere tightening of the espionage paragraph, as advocated by the Greens, would be insufficient without corresponding enhancements to the defence capabilities of intelligence agencies.

The Chancellor highlighted the importance of equipping the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN) and military intelligence services with additional tools to combat hostile intelligence activities effectively. Specifically, he advocated for measures such as the interception of encrypted messenger services and simplified procedures for seizing suspicious technical equipment. Nehammer stressed that spies typically operate covertly, necessitating enhanced capabilities for intelligence agencies to uncover their activities.

Where in Austria is your bike most likely to be stolen?

Austria promotes green transport modes in its cities, offering plenty of bike paths and spots for cyclists to park - but bike theft is on the rise.

Austrian rejection of EU membership declines

According to a recent survey conducted by the Austrian Society for European Policy, the number of people expressing a desire to leave the EU has declined significantly, dropping from 29 percent to 23 percent since the start of the year. This marks the lowest figure recorded in the past two years. 

Approval of EU membership remains strong, with 65 percent expressing support for staying in the EU. The survey, conducted online across Austria from March 19 to 25th, 2024, sheds light on public sentiment ahead of the European elections.

Looking ahead to the European elections, 54 percent of respondents indicate that they will "definitely" vote, with an additional 25 percent stating they will "probably" vote. Only five percent report that they will not vote, while eight percent are "unlikely" to go to the polls on June 9.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (79 percent) consider it either "very important" (46 percent) or "fairly important" (33 percent) for the European Parliament to be directly elected by citizens in all EU member states. Conversely, only a small fraction (13 percent) deem this aspect as "not very important" (8 percent) or "not at all important" (5 percent).

The primary motivation cited for participating in the election is the desire to exercise the democratic right to vote. Additionally, a significant proportion (86 percent) express the importance of Austria being well represented in the EU, while 74 percent view the European Parliament as a crucial institution within the EU.


AUA-KV negotiations to continue on Monday

In the dispute over a new collective agreement (KV) for Austrian Airlines (AUA) on-board staff, the workforce once again exerted pressure and demonstrated on Thursday: 92 flights were cancelled due to a works meeting. Negotiations are now to continue on Monday, ORF reported.

The collective bargaining dispute has been dragging on for weeks now, with 17 rounds of negotiations failing to produce an agreement. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled - the AUA management now estimates the financial damage caused by the labour dispute to be € 26 million. Added to this is the enormous reputational damage, said AUA spokeswoman Sophie Matkovits on Ö1-Mittagsjournal.

The AUA on-board works council and the union are calling for AUA salaries to be aligned with those of Lufthansa, which would mean an increase of up to 40 percent. The management offers up to 18 percent more for pilots and flight attendants over two years and 28 percent for co-pilots. The AUA management argues that 60 percent of AUA routes would be unprofitable if salaries were increased by more than this.

"If the AUA managers were serious with their offer of an 18 or 28 percent increase, a result would be reached quickly," said Vida head Roman Hebenstreit after the works meeting.

In reality, however, these figures also include bonus components that would never be reached, for example, or changes in working hours would be offset, according to the trade union. "An analysis by the works council shows that the bottom line is that this would be no more than pure inflation compensation", he added.


Still high numbers of measles infections in Austria

The measles epidemic in Austria is not over yet. At the beginning of March, there were around 20 cases in Styria—by the beginning of April, there were already 49. Austria-wide, there were 364 cases—that's twice as many as in 2023, with around 180 reported cases.

Experts are concerned because we have a particularly high number of cases compared to other European countries—twenty percent of those who fall ill end up in hospital.

Measles comes in waves, usually starting in spring and subsiding by summer, says Andrea Grisold from the Medical University of Graz, Chairwoman of the Austrian Measles Committee. There are currently around 49 reported cases in Styria, and no new cases have been reported in the last week.

However, the expert does not yet see the light at the end of the tunnel: "You have to be careful; just because it has been quieter for a week now does not mean that the measles situation has calmed down."

Adolescents and young adults up to the age of 30 are mainly affected. Around one in five measles patients ends up in hospital, and four are in intensive care units across Austria. Since the beginning of the current measles epidemic, there has been a slight increase in the willingness to be vaccinated.

"But in general, it has to be said that we are still lagging far behind in Austria in terms of vaccination coverage, and we can only ever appeal to people to check their vaccination record to see if they have been vaccinated twice or - if they were born before 1970 - to have their measles titer checked once to see if they have had it before", the expert said.


Weekend brings up to 30 degrees

The first few months of the year have already broken climate records in Austria, and the unusually warm weather continues. The coming weekend will bring summer temperatures, probably even the first 30C this year, ORF reported.

The first climatological summer day (25C and above) will also be in Bregenz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Linz, and Klagenfurt by Saturday at the latest. The other capitals already had their first summer day on Monday at the beginning of this week. So, the first day of summer comes very early this year.

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