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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

Polar bears
Polar bears in Vienna's Schönbrunn zoo, just named the best in Europe. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

School ‘strikes’ across Austria today

Student groups across Austria have announced plans to ‘strike’ on Tuesday over the Covid strategy in schools.

A group of more than 100 student representatives wrote to the Minister of Education Martin Polaschek, calling for increased mental health measures for students, increased safety measures including air purifiers, and for exemptions to be made possible to the Matura, Austria’s secondary school leaving qualification.

In 2021 and 2020, it was not compulsory to carry out the usual oral element of the exam, but that has been reintroduced for this year — with Polaschek attracting criticism for saying this could be done in some situations even in hospital.

A separate group called ‘Action by Critical Students’ (AKS) has also called for similar changes and for students to protest by striking.

School attendance is usually compulsory by law in Austria and students may only be absent with a doctor’s note or other form of permission, but at the moment that’s been waived due to the pandemic. That means today’s ‘strikes’ are more of a symbolic protest.

Suspected trafficker shot at police at Austria-Hungary border

A man suspected of people trafficking shot at Austrian police at the border with Hungary on Monday before escaping, after the police tried to stop the vehicle for routine checks.

Police said nobody was injured but the shooter escaped; a second man was arrested on suspicion of trafficking.

Twelve refugees were also in the van, who were reported to be unharmed, and applied for asylum in Austria.

Austria reaches new Covid case record for a Monday

As expected, Covid cases are continuing to increase this week as Austria faces an Omicron wave.

Yesterday 15,717 were recorded, more than ever before on a Monday. 

Austria’s vaccine mandate passes parliamentary healthcare committee

The committee passed the bill with a large majority on Monday evening, although the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) voted against.

Before making the decision the committee listened to the opinions of experts with one expert nominated by each party.

The next step is for the bill to be voted on by Austria’s National Council on Thursday.

Vienna has Europe’s best zoo

Vienna’s Schönbrunn Zoo has been voted the best in Europe for the sixth time in the ranking by British zoo expert Anthony Sheridan.

Sheridan evaluated 160 zoos from 29 countries, rating criteria such as the number of animals and visitors but also the standard of care for the animals.

Kitzbühel tightens Covid measures after apres-ski video

Yesterday we wrote about a bar in Kitzbühel at the centre of a scandal after a startup founder posted videos of a lively apres-ski party there. Now Austrian media have reported that the bar received €137,000 in coronavirus aid.

The local authorities have responded by closing outdoor gastronomy for the rest of the week, while the Hahnenkamm Races ski event is ongoing, and stepping up Covid checks in the town.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Inflation at 7.2 percent, Austria tries to reduce dependence on Russian gas and more news on Thursday.

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

Inflation rose to 7.2 percent in April

Inflation in Austria has continued to accelerate. According to Statistics Austria, the inflation rate in April was 7.2 percent – ​​the last time there was such a high inflation rate was in October 1981. Expenditure on transport and housing accounted for three-fifths of inflation. Compared to the previous month of March, the price level rose by 0.4 percent. “In addition to fuel and energy products, rising food prices are currently also responsible for the rise in inflation,” said Statistics Austria Director General Tobias Thomas on Wednesday.

READ MORE: 

Austria plans to reduce dependence on Russian gas by 10 percent

Austria is to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by ten percent (taking it to 70 percent) by connecting the Haidach gas storage facility in Salzburg to the Austrian gas network before the end of this year. This  strategic gas reserve, which previously served Bavaria in nearby Germany, is to be increased by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This will cover the gas consumption of two winter months, broadcaster ORF

The additional gas volume of the strategic reserve should come from non-Russian sources, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) has promised. 

In addition, the National Council passed a regulation on Thursday allowing the state to commission suppliers with the provision and storage of natural gas. Industrial companies that store gas are to be given collateral. They should also be able to dispose of their gas reserves themselves in the event of a crisis. Only when system stability requires it does the state access these reserves in exchange for compensation.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Labour Chamber raises concerns that a third of Viennese adults do not have Austrian citizenship

Austria’s Labour Chamber (Arbeitkammer) has pointed out many people working and living in Vienna are excluded from the democratic process, because they are not Austrian citizens. In a thread on Twitter, the organisation noted that 30 percent of Viennese people over 16 do not have Austrian citizenship, including many young people who were born in Austria. In Austria, if your parents are not Austrian, you must submit proof you have lived legally in Austria for five years and have been resident for 10 years, according to the Chamber. You must also prove that your net income (after bills, housing costs and loan repayments) is above €1,030.49. The chamber points out only a third of Austrians themselves meet these stringent requirements. 

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Warnings over large numbers of train passengers on upcoming public holidays 

Austria’s train company ÖBB is warning “very large number of passengers” are expected to use the railways around the forthcoming holidays of Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. It says it has expanded its capacities as much as possible and additional staff have been deployed, but warns if too many passengers board trains this could lead to the train journey being interrupted “for safety reasons” in “exceptional cases” and passengers without a seat or reservation having to leave the train, according to ÖBB. ORF reports the company recommends making a reservation before travel, especially on the most popular connections – even if you have a climate ticket which offers unlimited annual train travel in Austria. 

Bavaria clashes with Tyrol

Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) has called on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to initiate infringement proceedings against the Republic of Austria. He claims checks made by Austria in Tyrol before trucks can use the Brenner Pass and the practice of ​​Blockabfertigung (block handling) trucks are causing systematic traffic problems in Bavaria and called for talks in Brussels. Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter (ÖVP) said this demand was “insane”.

Broadcaster ORF reports that there are fears that Munich will also be affected by the same issues as the state of Salzburg is now also examining similar solutions at the Walserberg border crossing. Bernreiter wrote to the President of the Commission to say a solution must finally be found for Alpine transit traffic,: “Residents and truck drivers have been suffering from traffic congestion for far too long.” The problem must be “solved constructively and together”.

Calls to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister who danced with Putin at her wedding

German MEPs have called on the EU Council to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissl (FPÖ), who notoriously danced with Vladimir Putin at her wedding in 2018. Putin also gave her sapphire earrings worth €50,000 as a wedding gift. The Austrian journalist Armin Wolf told the ZIB programme sanctions could be put in place today (Thursday).

Vienna launched campaign against flushing rubbish down the toilet 

Vienna has launched a campaign to stop people throwing cooking oil and wet wipes down the toilet, after revealing around 20 tonnes of “solids” are removed by the municipal sewage treatment plant in Simmering..

A website provides information about the correct disposal methods for all types of waste. With a “rinse”, users can test their knowledge of what is allowed in the toilet and what is not. A song, performed by five “stool gang” characters, tackles the subject in an easily accessible way and will be used on the radio and in social networks. It will also be shown on adverts in restaurant toilets.  Pouring cooking oil down the sink leads to rats and fatbergs, the city pointed out.

Restaurants and Inns in Vienna may have to put their prices up by up to 20 percent

People wishing to go to Vienna’s inns and restaurants will face bills which are up to 20 percent higher by the end of the year due to increased energy and food prices, the  Vienna Chamber of Commerce has said. Peter Dobcak, chairman of the specialist group for gastronomy in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce told Wien Heute (Vienna Today) on Wednesday that the industry was “torn” because it wanted to reduce the burden on people suffering due to high energy prices, but at the same time, had to keep businesses afloat.

The restaurateur Hans Stöckl, who runs the Gasthaus Nestroy in the second district, said he was struggling with the skyrocketing electricity prices, telling ORF that each months he faced additional costs of up to 900 euros due to this factor alone. Some foods such as cooking oil, flour, eggs and dairy products, have also tripled in price.

There are also concerns that people will stop going out to eat due to the cost of living crisis.

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