For members


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

Record increase in household energy costs, Germany's concerns over gas storage in Austria and more news on Thursday.

A couple sit in front of a tree
Beautiful spring weather in Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Household energy 42.4 percent more expensive in March in a yearly comparison

Household energy was 42.4 percent more expensive in March compared to the previous year – a record value, according to the Austrian Energy Agency.

In February, the price increase was “only” 27.4 percent. The cost of fuels, heating oil and gas drove prices up in March. All other energy sources were also more expensive than in the previous year. 

Fuel also rose sharply in March, fuelled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, more than doubling compared to March 2021 with an increase of 118.5 percent. Diesel is 55 percent more expensive than last year,  premium petrol has gone up by 45.3 percent.and natural gas is 73 percent more expensive.

READ ALSO: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Bavaria writes to Austria’s Chancellor over gas storage in Salzburg

The Prime Minister of Bavaria Markus Söder (CSU) has written to Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer about a gas depot which is lying empty in Austria. The gas depot in Haidach, Salzburg is the second largest gas storage facility in Central Europe, and provides gas to Bavaria’s chemical industries, broadcaster ORF reports. Söder wants to ensure that the storage facility is filled up again. The German government has passed a law which requires gas storage tanks to be filled over the summer, but as this tank is in Austria, Germany has no legal means to require it to be filled. 

Another problem is that Haidach is about two-thirds owned by Gazprom, which emptied it after it was apparently already below average for “strategic reasons,” according to Bavaria’s Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger, in the “Passauer Neue Presse” (PNP).

Although the gas stored in Salzburg’s Haidach is intended for the German market, the storage facility could also be used by the Austrian side in an emergency. This probably affects Tyrol and Vorarlberg in particular, which get all their gas supplies via Germany.

It remains to be seen whether the strategic gas reserve approved in Austria this week will also affect the filling of the German storage facility in Haidach – according to media reports, the gas reserve is to be distributed across all storage facilities in the country by June. However, the newspaper “Focus” reports that Bavaria and Austria are already cooperating together over the gas supply.

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

Russian oil ‘will continue to flow’ to Austria after oil  embargo

Although no Russian oil has been processed in Austria since March, Austria gets around ten percent of its domestic diesel from Slovakia, which along with Hungary will be offered an exemption from the Russian oil embargo until  the end of 2023. Austria also imports other processed products such as diesel, petrol and heating oil from Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Germany accounts for the largest part of imports, followed by Italy and Slovakia.

Around ten percent of domestic diesel comes from Slovakia, which in turn imports crude oil from Russia. According to the International Energy Agency, Hungary and Slovakia import 96 and 58 percent, respectively, of their oil from Russia.

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?

According to figures from Statistics Austria, Austria imported processed crude oil from Hungary and Slovakia worth 372.5 million euros in 2020. In the case of diesel, which is more important in terms of volume, ten percent of imports come from Slovakia and three percent from Hungary. In the case of petrol, 30 percent of imports come from Slovakia. Der Standard says experts believe it may even become cheaper for Austria to import processed oil from Slovakia and Hungary if Russia has to sell its oil at a discount due to the embargo.

Austrian Greens are abandoning their pacifist beliefs 

According to Der Standard newspaper, Austria’s Green party is leaving its pacifist ideals behind due to the war in Ukraine. It quotes Peter Steyrer, a former key figure in the Austrian peace movement for decades, saying: “I was once a pacifist.” Steyrer, a longtime Green Party employee, is currently an advisor on EU and international politics in the office of Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler. Steyrer says while in theory he is still a pacifist, there are situations in which military means are “unavoidable”. The newspaper notes that Steyrer mentions the Austrian Greens are still in a happier place than the German Greens, thanks to their country’s neutrality.

Liberation of Austrian Concentration Camp remembered 

Austria commemorated the liberation of the Gusen concentration camp in Upper Austria in 1945 on Wednesday. Austria’s Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen noted that mistakes had been made in the past by Austria, stating: “Gusen was not as present in our culture of remembrance as it should have been”. He said Austria would do everything possible to make the area a place “worthy of the memory of all victims”. The camp only features a small memorial. Broadcaster ORF reports Poland, where many victims came from, has put pressure on Austria for years to create a more dignified commemoration and even offered to buy the land on the site. This year, the Republic of Austria finally bought the former roll call area, the gravel crusher and two SS administration buildings. In the coming years they are to be integrated into the existing Gusen Memorial.

The first memorial at the Gusen camp was was financed and put up by international survivor associations, on a private basis, and it was not until 1997 that the Republic of Austria assumed responsibility for the memorial and in 2004 set up a visitor center with a permanent exhibition

Vienna reveals “Cooling Zones” plans for summer

The City of Vienna will once again offer “Cooling Zones” this summer aimed at vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, small children, the homeless and people with chronic illnesses, broadcaster ORF reports. These zones, in accessible buildings, will give Viennese residents a chance to cool down when Vienna’s temperatures go over 30 degrees.

Outdoor work is also to be promoted further. As trialled in the in Ottakring district shady workplaces in parks with WiFi should be available as a cool alternative to the office. The range of public drinking fountains is to be expanded.

 By 2025, the city of Vienna wants to increase the production of solar power fivefold and plant 25,000 new city trees.

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For members


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

Centre-left SPÖ votes for Doskozil as its new leader, mountain rescuers issue warning ahead of the summer season, and more news from Austria on Monday.

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

Centre-left SPÖ votes for Doskozil as its new leader

After weeks of debates over the leadership of the centre-party SPÖ, members cast their votes on Saturday afternoon. The party head was also announced over the weekend, with Burgenland governor Hans Peter Doskozil taking the position. He emerged victorious with 53.02 per cent, defeating his opponent Andreas Babler, the mayor of Traiskirchen, who received 46.81 per cent.

In his post-election speech, Doskozil firmly rejected the idea of forming a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party and the centre-left ÖVP. However, already on Sunday, he backtracked on his explicit rejection of a partnership with the ÖVP (while maintaining a position against the FPÖ). Instead, he said his goal was to make the SPÖ so strong that it would need no coalition parties but that he could not “deny the will of the voters”.

Following the announcement of the results, Doskozil invited Babler onto the stage, symbolising a gesture of unity and reconciliation within the Social Democrats. The speeches of both candidates and the delegates at the party conference proceeded without tension, unlike the past few weeks.

Initially, 609 delegates were expected to decide on the SPÖ leadership at the special party congress in Linz. However, only 608 representatives participated, as outgoing SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner was notably absent. The former minister, who ranked third in the members’ election, did not attend the party conference to bid farewell.

Last week, she resigned as chairwoman after coming in third in a members’ poll for leadership. 

BACKGROUND: Austrian elections: Who will be the Social Democratic Party’s chancellor candidate?

EXPLAINED: Why job sectors in Austria are short of workers

Even as Austria’s unemployment rate rose 0.2 per cent in May to 5.9 per cent, around 58 per cent of companies say they’re experiencing business difficulties directly related to the skilled labour shortage, according to a new labour market survey by the Credit Protection Association (KSV).

Around 320,000 people are looking for a job in Austria right now, marking the first increase in the unemployment rate in two years. Yet 26 per cent of companies – or over a quarter – say the skilled labour shortage is so dire that it’s significantly affecting their operations.

As a result, companies report a higher burden on their existing staff, and some have even had to turn down new orders or business due to a shortage of qualified staff.

So, why are job sectors in Austria short of workers?

Woman threatened by misogynist man during train journey

On Sunday, a 27-year-old Italian man made death threats to a 38-year-old woman from Lower Austria, whom he did not know, while they were both on a train from Vienna to Carinthia, the public broadcaster ORF reported. 

He used gestures indicating that he would harm her, including mimicking cutting her neck. The train driver spotted this on the surveillance camera and promptly contacted the police. The man later revealed that his motive for the threats was rooted in misogyny, and the woman was a random victim.

The incident occurred on Sunday morning when the woman from Lower Austria was a passenger on the train. The unknown Italian man repeatedly threatened her during the journey. He used various gestures, including one where he imitated holding a pistol with his hand and pointing his fingers at her, indicating harm. The train driver observed this through the onboard surveillance system and immediately reported it to the police emergency hotline

The Italian man was apprehended at Friesach train station. During his questioning, with the assistance of an interpreter, he confessed to the crime. In addition, he revealed that his motive for the threats stemmed from his misogynistic beliefs, and the 38-year-old woman was chosen randomly as his victim. 

It was discovered that he had previously threatened women in Unzmarkt, but they ignored him and continued on their way. Consequently, an arrest warrant was issued for the 27-year-old man, and he was transferred to the Klagenfurt police detention centre. He will face charges of making dangerous threats.

READ ALSO: What are the most common crimes in Vienna?

  • Mountain rescue warns of dangers in the mountains ahead of the summer season

The Mountain Rescue Service warned about the current mountain hazards as the summer season begins. Significant snowfields still exist at medium and higher altitudes, posing an increased risk of slipping. For hikers, it is advisable to plan shorter routes at the start of the season, and for e-bikers, it is recommended to undertake a few flat tours to become familiar with the bike.

Lack of fitness and overestimation are the primary causes of mountain accidents. According to Martin Burger from the Vorarlberg Mountain Rescue Service, many hikers fail to consider the dangers present in the early summer mountains. Substantial snow remains at medium and higher altitudes, particularly on the shaded side, increasing the risk of slipping and falling.

There is also an increasing number of e-bikers venturing into the mountains. While ascending is often manageable, accidents frequently occur during descents. In addition, especially at the beginning of the season, many e-bikers lack experience, and some are riding an e-bike off-road for the first time, he explained.

“E-bikes should not be underestimated, as they are heavier with a different centre of gravity than conventional mountain bikes. Downhill riding requires extra attention”, Burger said. Due to inertia and increased weight, braking distances must be considered well in advance to prevent accidents.

He advises starting with a few flat tours to reacquaint oneself with the heavier e-bike. This way, riders can gain better control even in challenging situations.

Last year, between the beginning of June and the end of September, the mountain rescue service responded to 273 missions, while the air rescue service received 570 alerts during the same period.

READ ALSO: How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Austrian Alps

Man rescues girl from Danube River

On Saturday night on the Danube River, a man rescued a seven-year-old girl from the water, saving her life. The incident occurred near the Vienna City Beach Club in Kaisermühlen, where the girl was swimming with friends. Suddenly, she submerged under the water at around 7 p.m., as the professional rescue service reported on Sunday.

Fortunately, a nearby man witnessed the situation and swiftly reacted. He jumped into the Danube, retrieved the girl from under the water, and brought her safely ashore. He then assessed the girl’s condition and noticed she was not breathing. The man initiated resuscitation measures, performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After a few breaths, the girl expelled water from her system and regained her ability to breathe independently, as confirmed by the rescue team in their statement.

By the time the professional rescue team arrived, the girl had regained consciousness. 

They took over the necessary medical treatment and transported her to a hospital in stable condition. “Due to his swift actions and correct first aid measures, the first responder undeniably saved the girl’s life”, the team said.

READ ALSO: The German language you need for summer in Austria

Hot and humid weather with thunderstorms approaching

According to the Geosphere Austria forecast, unstable and muggy weather with thunderstorms is expected in Austria this week. 

Showers and local thunderstorms are likely on Monday, especially in the eastern regions. The western areas will have fewer showers. Tuesday will bring a mix of sun and clouds, with showers and potential thunderstorms in the eastern half. Wednesday will see temporary sunshine but an increased chance of showers and thunderstorms, particularly on the northern side of the Alps. Thursday and Friday will continue to be muggy and unsettled, with rain becoming more likely.

READ ALSO: How to protect yourself during storms in Austria

If you have any questions about life in Austria, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected].