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Today in Austria For Members

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

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
The new law aims to balance privacy and police investigation power in Austria (Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

Austrian government introduces new cellphone seizure law and new pet package, urban areas increasing fast, experts warn against 'remigration' and more news from Austria on Friday.

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Austrian government introduces new cellphone seizure law

The Austrian government has announced a reform of the law on the seizure of cell phones and data carriers. This follows a Constitutional Court ruling last year that declared the previous provisions unconstitutional. The new bill, submitted to the National Council, aims to protect privacy rights while ensuring effective law enforcement.

Under the proposed legislation, authorities will need judicial approval before seizing and evaluating data from cell phones and other devices. The court order must specify the data categories, period, and investigative purpose for which the data can be used. Additionally, the public interest in the investigation must be weighed against the individual's fundamental rights.

The new law also introduces a multi-step process for data seizure and evaluation. Before analysis, the data must be copied and the original secured, and any new findings require a new court order. Both victims and defendants will have the right to request an evaluation of the processed data.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic emphasised the importance of implementing the Constitutional Court's requirements while maintaining effective law enforcement capabilities. Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler highlighted the strengthening of the rights of the accused in criminal proceedings.

The bill is expected to be passed before the summer break and should become effective on January 1st, 2025.

Can you work in Austria without signing a job contract?

If you are working in Austria, you might have heard of jobs that do not come with a formal "Arbeitsvertrag" (work contract). But is this legal?

Urban areas in Austria have increased fivefold since 1975

A new study by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) reveals that urban "spread" in Austria has increased dramatically since 1975, particularly in Upper Austria, Carinthia, and Styria. The study found that heavily urbanised areas have expanded fivefold over this period, highlighting this development pattern's land-consuming and resource-intensive nature.

Researchers warn that Austria is "on a highway to sprawl" with significant consequences for soil health, resource consumption, and CO2 emissions. They advocate for a comprehensive soil strategy with clear targets to limit land consumption and promote sustainable urban development.

The study emphasises the need to shift away from car-dependent, low-density settlements towards denser, more compact urban areas, prioritising resource efficiency and a high quality of life. This can be achieved by defining settlement boundaries, utilising existing vacancies, and promoting renovations and additions.

Experts also highlight the importance of changing the narrative around urban living, showcasing the advantages and possibilities of climate-friendly lifestyles in densely populated areas.

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Austrian Parliament introduces pet package with mandatory competence certificate

The Austrian parliament has tabled a long-awaited amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, aiming to strengthen animal welfare regulations and combat torture breeding. The amendment includes a mandatory competency certificate for keeping dogs, amphibians, reptiles, and parrot birds.

Animal Welfare Minister Johannes Rauch expressed satisfaction with the finalisation of the amendment, highlighting the importance of responsible pet ownership and preventing impulsive purchases that lead to animals being abandoned. The certificate of competence will require potential owners to complete courses to understand the responsibilities of caring for animals.

The amendment also tightens regulations on torture breeding, ensuring effective enforcement of existing bans and holding breeders accountable for knowingly or negligently producing unhealthy animals. Additionally, the pet database will be expanded, and breeders of multiple litters of dogs or cats will need permits from authorities.

The Green Party's animal welfare spokesperson, Faika El-Nagashi, emphasised the reforms' significance in preventing spontaneous purchases and ensuring that animals receive proper care. The amendment is expected to be passed by the National Council in July.

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Experts warn against "remigration" in Austria, highlight migrant contributions

Researchers in Vienna have raised concerns about the potential consequences of "remigration" policies being advocated by far-right groups in Austria and Germany. They emphasise the crucial role migrants play in the Austrian welfare state and warn that their removal would severely disrupt various sectors and overall societal well-being.

Sociologist Jörg Flecker highlights that many critical industries in Austria rely heavily on foreign workers. For example, more than half of those employed in cleaning, care of buildings, hospitality, and temporary work are non-Austrian citizens. In Vienna, a city with a large migrant population, the situation is even more pronounced. Three-quarters of the workforce in accommodation and food services and two-thirds in construction and other services have a migrant background.

Philipp Ther, a history professor at the University of Vienna, emphasises that immigrants have historically benefited the Austrian social security system. He warns that forced repatriation of people with migrant backgrounds would be tantamount to ethnic cleansing and could lead to violence and instability.

The researchers call for greater recognition of migrants' positive contributions in Austria and caution against the dangerous rhetoric of radical "remigration" policies.

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