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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria's Chancellor looks at skimming profits from partially state-owned companies, staff shortages in many professions in Austria and more news on Friday.

People enjoying the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on Thursday May 5
People sit in the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on May 5, 2022. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austrian Chancellor will look at how to skim-off profits of state-owned companies

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said his government will consider how to legally skim off profits from state-owned companies which are benefiting from global crises – for example because of high energy prices. An order has already been given to the Ministry of Finance and Economics, Nehammer told the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper.

“Random profits from state-owned companies belong to the people and not to the companies alone. New regulations are needed,” he said. Nehammer’s surprise statements caused the share of the partially state-owned energy company Verbund to slip by almost 13 percent.

The shares of the Lower Austrian electricity supplier EVN, which is 51 percent owned by the state of Lower Austria, also slipped by more than seven percent. Shares in the partially state-owned OMV energy company dropped by 2.8 percent. Österreichische Beteiligungs AG (ÖBAG) – Austria’s sovereign wealth fund – has a 31.5 percent stake in OMV.

The President of the Aktienforum (which represents the interests of Austrian listed companies) Robert Ottel described Nehammer’s statements as “surprising and shocking at the same time”. The Federation of Industrialists (IV) was also “concerned”, stating: “Even the public consideration of such arbitrary interventions undermines trust in the predictability of the legal framework in Austria and leads to a reluctance to invest,” broadcaster ORF reports.

Staff shortages in nursing, social work, teaching, kindergartens, restaurants, hotels and shops in Austria 

The Krone newspaper has drawn up a list of the jobs with the greatest number of staff shortages in Austria. It says it is currently easy to find a job in  nursing, social work, teaching, kindergartens, restaurants, hotels and shops in Austria.

According to the newspaper, around 80 beds in nursing homes in Vienna are lying empty due to a lack of staff,  there is concern in Austria about social worker shortages, 567 teaching positions in Vienna are vacant, and many staff have abandoned jobs in the restaurant or retail industries because of the pandemic and anti-social working hours.

Thousands of children do not know enough German to follow lessons in Austrian schools

Around 60 percent of children who have to take special classes at elementary school because their German is not at the required level were born in Austria and had previously attended German-speaking kindergartens. 

The former ÖVP-FPÖ federal government introduced German remedial classes in 2018 for students who could not take part in class due to a lack of German language skills and were classified as “außerordentlich” or “extraordinary”.

Many children fall into this group, especially in Vienna. In the 2020/21 school year, according to the current data from Statistics Austria, every seventh pupil in the elementary school was listed as extraordinary. A total of 10,484 Viennese elementary school students with German problems received extraordinary status. Of these, 4,526 attended a German remedial class.

The ÖVP Party is now calling for parents of children who do not pass the school language test during assessment at kindergarten to attend a parenting course run by the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF) – or a compulsory German course. In addition, the party believes “almost all” brochures and information from the city of Vienna should only be available in German, Der Standard newspaper reports.

The City of Vienna has refused to comply with this request, and says it will increase the number of language support teachers from 300 to 500. The City of Vienna only has responsibility for kindergartens, schools fall underneath the responsibility of the federal government.

READ MORE: Ten things you will notice as a parent with a child in school in Austria

Austrian economic minister rejects gas embargo

Austria has again emphasised its opposition to an embargo for Russian gas supplies. “A gas embargo is a clear red line for Austria,” Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) told the newspapers of the German Funke Group.

She also said Austria was unable to use its own tax money to buy gas for Germany, saying: “We can use Austrian tax money to make provisions for the storage facilities that serve Austrian needs. But we cannot buy gas for Germany, France or the Netherlands with Austrian tax money,” broadcaster ORF reports. Germany has a large gas storage facility in Austria, in Haidach, which is currently almost empty.  

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

Austrians do not want to join NATO

People in Austria remain opposed to NATO membership according to a survey for the APA press agency. Just 14 percent of Austrians are in favour of joining NATO, while 75 percent reject the idea. 

The majority of Austrians are also sceptical when it comes to Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, with 38 percent in favour, but 46 percent against. The rest are still undecided. 

When asked if neutrality still protects Austria today, 52 percent answered yes. But at least 40 percent are not of the opinion that neutrality protects Austria from military threats. Around 83 percent of Austrians would like closer coordination among the EU member states on security and defence policy.

EXPLAINED: The history behind Austria’s neutrality

Austria’s Green Pass cost 22.5 million euros

Austria’s test infrastructure (12.9 million euros), the IT implementation of the Green Pass (7.5 million euros) and the E-Vaccination card (2.1 million euros) cost in total almost 22.5 million euros in 2021 and 2022. This information was released by Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) n response to a request from Austria’s NEOS party. 

Since Austria eased its strict pandemic measures, more and more people are letting their vaccination certificates expire, broadcaster ORF  reports, so their vaccinations are no longer valid.  Around 67.9 percent of Austrians currently have a valid vaccination. That’s around 6.1 million people, but more than 27,000 fewer than a week ago.

EXPLAINED: What should I do if my Austrian Green Pass is expiring?

Seven day incidence falls to 433.9

The 7-day incidence, or the number of new infections with Covid-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 433.9. The number is highest in Burgenland (599.6) and in Vienna (594.4). The value is lowest in Styria (278.9) and in Tyrol (293.0).

18,222 people have died from or in connection with the coronavirus, 1,081 infected people are currently being treated in a hospital, 84 of them in intensive care units.

Freedom of information law in Austria could soon be put into place

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) has said she hopes that a freedom of information law will soon become a reality. “The right to free information must be in the constitution,” she said on Thursday at a panel discussion on corruption, broadcaster ORF reports. She was also confident that a reviewed law could be implemented “soon”. The draft has been on the waiting list for months.

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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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