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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria's Foreign Minister makes headlines after speaking about Ukraine's membership of the EU and other news from Austria on Monday.

Masks will no longer be needed in schools in Austria from today. Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash
Masks will no longer be needed in schools in Austria from today. Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Austrian Foreign Minister’s views on Ukraine’s membership of EU make headlines around the world 

Austria’s Foreign Minister and former Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has been dominating headlines in both Ukraine and Russia, after he spoke about Ukraine joining the EU in the Austrian newspaper Heute.

Schallenberg suggested Ukraine could be given a “tailor made” solution, adding this would not necessarily involve full membership of the EU.

He also referred to countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, who he said have been waiting for accession for years and shouldn’t be forgotten, while speaking at the European Media Summit in Lech am Arlberg, broadcaster ORF reports.

Russian and Ukrainian media interpreted this as Vienna giving a categorical no to Ukraine joining the EU, leading to criticism from the Ukrainian Kyiv Independent newspaper. 

Referring specifically to the war in Ukraine, Schallenberg said that Austria was militarily neutral, but not politically. “We don’t belong to any military alliance and we don’t want to,” he said. However, Austria still wanted to make a contribution, for example by supplying helmets to Ukraine.

According to Austrian broadcaster ORF, Schallenberg’s statements became one of the most important online news items of the day in Russia on Saturday.

READ MORE: The history behind Austria’s neutrality

From today no more masks in schools

As of today, masks are no longer compulsory in schools. In classrooms and group rooms, the children and young people have not had to wear a mask or (from the upper school) an FFP2 mask since the end of February.

However, previously children had to wear masks when walking in school corridors or when going to  the toilet. This will no longer be necessary.

READ MORE: Austria to keep masks only in essential places from April 17th

Opposition SPÖ party calls for changes to tax rules due to inflation

Following the announcement by Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) that he was looking  at abolishing cold progression, SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner called for the abolition of cold progression on Sunday.  She said the tax brackets should be brought in line with inflation automatically, but only for the lower tariff levels, in the ORF press hour. 

Der Standard newspaper reports more than half of the OECD countries in Europe have installed an automatic system in which tax brackets keep place from inflation. 

READ MORE: Will inflation force tax changes in Austria from 2023? 

‘No future’ for compulsory vaccination against Covid, says opposition SPÖ leader

The leader of Austria’s opposition SPÖ party, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, has ruled out supporting compulsory vaccination against Covid in the future, although the SPÖ supported the measure by the federal government last year.

The former doctor told the ORF press hour that  while in theory, she still supported mandatory vaccination, she no longer believed it was “achievable now or in the future” because the federal government lost the trust of the people that it was still necessary to implement the measure.

She did not support compulsory vaccination for over 60s either, and said it would reassure younger people there was no need for them to get vaccinated.

SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner also called on the government to set VAT on food to zero in view of the skyrocketing prices. The EU had made this possible with a new directive, and the government should implement this proposal, she said.

The SPÖ is calling for new elections. Rendi-Wagner said the party did not rule out a coalition with Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s ÖVP party – previously the SPÖ did not want to form a coalition with the  ÖVP party while Sebastian Kurz was in charge.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

Kurz to appear at conference, but has no plans to return to politics

Austria’s former chancellor Sebastian Kurz is to come to Graz to give a speech to the ÖVP on May 14, when Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer is officially elected ÖVP party leader.

A political comeback is out of the question for Kurz, according to a friend of the former politician speaking to the newspaper Heute. The ‘friend’ is quoted as saying: “It’s definitely not an option for him. I can rule out that he does that.” Kurz is reported to be doing well outside politics, where he is successful in the private sector and happy with his girlfriend Susanne and son Konstantin.

Vienna’s beloved musician Willi Resetarits, also known as “Ostbahn-Kurti”, has died

The Austrian pop star Willi Resetarits has died on Sunday, the day after opening Vienna’s Refugee Ball. The much-loved musician made his alter-ego character of “Ostbahn-Kurti” a star – and  used his success for social and socio-political projects to help refugees.

He founded an integration house for migrants coming to Vienna and also co-founded the organisations “Asyl in Not”, and “SOS Mitmensch”. In addition he was a chairman of the “Projekt Integrationshaus” association. This brought him awards such as the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights, the Josef Felder Prize for the common good and civil courage and the Fritz Greinecker Prize for civil courage.

In 2013 he received the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art and was named Austrian of the Year in the category “Cultural Heritage”. In 2017 he received the Amadeus Austrian Music Award for Lifetime Achievement and in 2019 the Honorary Award at the German Cabaret Prize.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

German classes for refugees, vaccination, the weather for today and more news from Austria on Monday.

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

Debate about German courses for refugees

Austria is debating the best way to provide German classes for refugees and promote integration, as Der Standard reports.

Firstly, refugees usually have one single German-speaking teacher and almost no contact with German-speaking students at schools, reducing their contact with the language considerably. They also never hear their mother tongue in the context of school.

However, this mainly happens among schoolchildren with poor knowledge of German from Turkey, Syria, Serbia and even Austria.

The situation is different in most classes that were set up for Ukrainian refugee children, the daily said. These kids usually have at least two teachers who speak German (one would speak Ukrainian as well).

The Austrian daily paper says students have already noticed the difference. “The German class with children from Syria is separated by only a wall from the Ukrainian class – and everyone can see how much resources go where”, according to the report.

READ ALSO: How Austria and Austrians are helping Ukrainian refugees

Vienna expands vaccination offers

Long lines in Viennese vaccination centres led to people having to wait one and a half to two hours to get the coronavirus jab, according to reports in Austria media.

Broadcaster ORF said that the surge in demand comes just after the city of Vienna simplified the access to the fourth Covid vaccination. As a result, people can get the shot after four months of the third dose without the need for registration or appointment.

With increasing coronavirus numbers ahead of the summer holidays, the search for the vaccine has also risen. While about 300 people were vaccinated daily less than two weeks ago, about 1,300 people went every day at the weekend, the report said.

Health authorities recommend people make an appointment even though they are not required to. “With an appointment, it’s easier for us to plan, and there is also a separate area for people with appointments”, Susanne Drapalik, chief physician at the Samaritan League, told reporters.

The Austrian capital will also extend the opening hours of the vaccination centres to meet demand.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 in Austria: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Austria’s government calls for blood donations

Austria’s hospitals are running out of blood, Die Presse reported. As a result, the Austrian Red Cross and the federal government are asking the population to donate blood.

“I urge you to take the time, go donate blood, and save the life of a fellow human being”, Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said.

As of next September, there will also be non-discriminatory blood donation in Austria, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. However, it is worth noting that several people are still excluded from blood donation in Austria. In addition, the authorities require a fluent knowledge of German so that you can go through the pre-interview and fill out the forms without help or a translator.

Additionally, people who were born or lived for more than six months in several countries where there are diseases such as malaria, including Brazil, for example, have a life ban on blood donation in Austria, according to the Red Cross website.

READ ALSO: Austria to end blood donor discrimination based on sexual orientation

Rain showers bring temperatures down in Austria

From Vorarlberg to Upper Austria, there will be clouds interchanging with sunny times during the morning. Some regions will also have rain showers and thunderstorms.

In the rest of the country, including Vienna, the sun often shines, at least during the morning, Austria’s central meteorological and geodynamic institute ZAMG says.

From the late morning, more and more clouds start forming and accumulating, especially over the mountains and in the hills, and will likely bring more thunderstorms and rain. However, it remains sunny and dry for longer in Austria’s far east and southeast.

Day maximum temperatures throughout Austria go from 24C to 34C. At night, heavy downpours are expected, and even thunderstorms in the eastern half of Austria. The lowest temperatures of the night are between 14C and 20C.

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

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