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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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 today. (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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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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