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

Taxes on second homes, Austria border patrols, reassurances made about Russian gas supplies and more news from Austria on Wednesday.

A horse and carriage in Vienna
It's going to be sunny and warm today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Reassurances by Energy Minister over Russian gas supplies to Austria

Austria’s Energy Minister  Leonore Gewessler (Greens) has made assurances that natural gas is still being supplied to Austria by Russia, after the country cut off gas supplies to Poland and  Bulgaria. Speaking to the Ö1 morning journal programme, she said the main supply routes were operating “without restrictions”, and said there were no signs that Russia planned to stop gas to Austria. Austria uses different supply routes (via Nord Stream and Ukraine) to Bulgaria and Poland, which uses the Yamal pipeline, she said.

However, she also warned that Austria must end its dependence on Russian gas as quickly as possible. “Vladimir Putin also wages war with energy supplies”, she said.

Austria is one of the most dependent countries in the EU on Russian gas supplies.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

Styria passes law allowing taxes on second homes and empty properties

The Styrian state parliament has passed a controversial levy on second homes and vacant homes with the votes of the ÖVP, SPÖ and Greens. The new law means that anyone with a second home or a property lying empty in Styria will have to pay up to ten euros per square metre per year in the future. Erwin Dirnberger, President of the Association of Municipalities and MP for the ÖVP, said the levy was “important and justified” and said the aim of this levy meant that existing living space would be put to use before new homes were built, broadcaster ORF reports. It will be up to the municipalities to decide if they want to introduce the tax. 

Network of forgotten tunnels runs under Vienna

There is a huge network of tunnels connecting up to 30 vaults and “bomb-proof” bunkers up to four floors below the pavements of Vienna. The Krone newspaper reports some of these forgotten bunkers date from World War II, while others are much older, and have existed for 2000 years. According to the newspaper, some vaults are up to four or five metres high. Servus TV is due to screen a TV programme on this secret underground network on Wednesday (April 27) at 18:05.

A compensation fund for victims of Nazis in Austria has finally been closed

A fund designed for victims of National Socialism in Austria has finally been dissolved, having paid out a total of around 215 million US dollars to around 25,000 people. The fund, based in Vienna, had fulfilled its tasks in full, according to a press release

The Compensation Fund for Victims of National Socialism was set up in 2001 following the Washington Agreement between Austria and the United States of America. The fund acknowledged moral responsibility for loss of property suffered by victims of the Nazi party in Austria. People who had been personally affected by the Nazis confiscating their families’ assets were entitled to apply.

Border controls in Austria come under scrutiny

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Austrian border controls introduced during the refugee crisis in 2015 may not be compatible with Union law, specifically with the Schengen Borders Code and the right of free movement for EU citizens. According to the judgment issued on Tuesday, Austria needed to have demonstrated that there was a serious threat to its public order in order to keep extending the border controls for more than two years, broadcaster ORF reports.

ORF said that as the ECJ ruled, an EU country in the Schengen area may only introduce such controls for a maximum of six months in the event of a serious threat to its public order or internal security. After that, proof of a new serious threat is needed. Austria does not seem to have proven this since 2017, the court found. 

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) emphasized that Austria would continue to rely on border controls “if necessary”, saying Austria is the second most country in Europe affected per capita by illegal immigration.The Provincial Administrative Court of Styria must now examine the judgement of the ECJ before proceeding

A case was brought to court after an EU citizen refused to present a document at the Slovenian-Austrian border when entering Austria in August and November 2019. This resulted in a fine of 36 euros.

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For members


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