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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Confusion over rouble payments for Russian oil, Parliament re-opening delayed, and more news on Friday.

The Austrian Parliament Building
Austria's Parliament Building(PHOTO BY JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Struggle for Austria’s OMV energy company to pay for Russian gas without breaking EU sanctions

The Austrian  oil, gas and petrochemical company OMV has responded to a media report in the Financial Times  that it wants to open a rouble account with Gazprombank in Switzerland to pay for gas deliveries from Russia. An OMV company spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the company was working on a solution which would comply with the EU’s sanctions. 

A European Commission spokesman said on Thursday that if companies pay in euros for Russian gas, they would not be in breach of the sanctions. However, it would become a breach of sanctions if companies were obliged to open a second account in roubles and if the payment were complete only when payment had been converted into roubles, Reuters reported. 

As the Local reported on Wednesday, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer took to Twitter to deny allegations made by the Russian state-owned news agency TASS that Austria had agreed to pay for natural gas supplies in roubles.

However, Donald Tusk, the President of the European People’s Party tweeted on the same day that he had heard Austria, Hungary and Germany were willing to take this step.

READ MORE: How Austria plans to secure enough energy for next winter

Return to Parliament delayed until January 2023

The opening of  Vienna’s historic parliament building on Vienna’s Ringstrasse has been further delayed until January of next year. An opening ceremony planned by National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) for this year’s national holiday in October has had to be canceled due to acoustic problems in the newly designed plenary hall, he said in an interview with the Kurier newspaper. A rehearsal carried out before re-opening revealed the renovated glass dome was making every word uttered echo three times – a problem also initially experienced at the German Bundestag. Now the carpet is to be removed again and soundproofing put in place on the ceiling and floor. Parliament will not have to pay for the work.

 The costs for the renovation of the more than 140-year-old building have already soared to 420 million euros – 70 million euros more than originally planned. The renovation was delayed by more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Calls for headscarf ban in Austria’s kindergartens to be overturned

Federal states in Austria are calling for a headscarf ban in kindergartens to be overturned. Austria’s former ÖVP-FPÖ government coalition attempted to ban headscarves in kindergartens  in 2018  and a few months later also in elementary schools. The ban on headscarves in schools was repealed by the Constitutional Court (VfGH) at the end of 2020, but not in kindergartens. The Constitutional Court argued that it contradicts the requirement of the state’s religious and ideological neutrality since it is aimed exclusively at Muslims.

The negotiators for the federal government – including the ÖVP-led ministries for finance, family and education as well as the Federal Chancellery – are sticking to the headscarf ban, broadcaster ORF reported. There has been no official statement from Integration Minister Susanne Raab (ÖVP). Attempts are now being made to find a solution at state level. The Green party, which is also in the coalition government with the ÖVP has called the headscarf ban “absurd”. 

Interior Ministry denies accusations of racism

Austria’s Interior Ministry has been accused of racism, after Cobra officers searched a house for drugs in Lower Austria, and entered a bathroom where a 13-year-old was in the shower. A 24-year-old who was in bed, had her blankets pulled off her by officers. The house search in Groß-Enzersdorf (Gänserndorf district) was one of 11 house searches aimed at tackling drug dealing. No drugs were found at the address. Two people in the house were from South Africa and said they suspected there was a racist background to the search. However, the Ministry responded that ​​the search was carried out on the basis of an order from the Vienna public prosecutor’s office at various locations and had absolutely no connection with people’s ethnic origins, broadcaster ORF reports.

Cycling is booming in Lower Austria

More than half of tourists visiting Lower Austria are there on cycling holidays. Bike riding has boomed thanks to the Covid pandemic, but even before 2020, around 252 million euros were generated though cycle tourism in Lower Austria annually. Michael Showerer, Managing Director of Niederösterreich-Werbung, told broadcaster ORF  that Lower Austria will offer more public transport networks to cyclists this year, as well as more rental and repair stations, shuttle services and guides. The Danube Cycle Path was the busiest bike route last year, with 1.1 million tourist bike rides between April 1st and September 30th, 2021. Other heavily frequented cycle paths are the EuroVelo 9 in the Weinviertel, the Kamp-Thaya-March route, the Traisental cycle path and the Triesting-Gölsental cycle path.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria is making life easier for cyclists and pedestrians

Hopes it will become easier for skilled third country nationals to work in Austria

Austria’s government has been looking at ways to make it easier for skilled workers from third countries to access the labour market. This means people from European countries that are not members of the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA).

There are currently 24,000 job vacancies in Austria and business experts say they want foreign skilled workers to have easier access to the Austrian labor market.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

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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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