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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Traffic jams and packed trains warning, concerns over gas, no subway for Graz and more news on Wednesday.

Traffic in Austria
Roads are expected to be busy over the coming days in Austria. (Photo by CALLE TOERNSTROEM / AFP)

Packed trains and traffic jams expected in coming days

Trains and roads in Austria are expected to be packed over the coming days as people head off on their holidays. The ÖBB train website warns people should make a reservation on trains before travelling, and says it will provide up to 10,000 additional seats on Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi.

The number of train travellers in Austria has increased sharply due to the waning of the pandemic, the Klima ticket and the high cost of petrol, broadcaster ORF reports. 

According to the Austrian motorist club ÖAMTC, drivers can expect “heavy traffic” over the long weekend. 

READ MORE:

Graz decides against subway

The city of Graz has finally decided against building a subway, but has instead decided to build two new S-Bahns instead and a tunnel through the city centre, it was revealed on Tuesday. Experts spent a year examining five concepts before coming up with the decision. The subway was the most expensive option, and would have cost more than 3.5 billion euros, whereas the two S-Bahn tunnel projects are significantly cheaper, costing  2 .2 billion euros, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Experts weigh in over mask requirement

As The Local reported on Tuesday, masks will no longer be required in Austria’s public transport and essential retail from the beginning of June. As usual, Vienna will keep stricter rules in place than the rest of the country, and require masks on public transport. However, experts meeting in Vienna from the research platform “Covid-19 Future Operations” on Tuesday called for the government to be prepared for the “worst case scenario” in the autumn and winter. 

Some experts were critical of the relaxed rules in place from June, with virologist Dorothea van Laer saying she would have kept the mask requirement in pharmacies and in essential shops in order to be able to protect vulnerable groups, broadcaster ORF reports.

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Concerns over emergency plans for gas

Businesses are raising concerns that no emergency plans are in place in the event Russia stops delivering gas to Austria. Austria is one of the most dependent countries on Russian gas in the EU. Der Standard reports Voestalpine, a large steel company based in Linz, has had only “sporadic” talks with the government about the possible crisis. Katharina Koßdorff, Managing Director of the Food Industry Association says there are no “concrete emergency plans” for this scenario, adding the Austrian food industry is almost 100 percent reliant on Russian gas. 

Austria has started to buy gas for its strategic reserve. On Monday the government spent almost one billion euros on 7.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas. Leonore Gewessler’s climate ministry, which is responsible for energy, said it was unclear where the gas comes from, as there are no proofs of origin on the gas market. It can be assumed that Russian gas makes up part of what has been purchased, according to a spokesman for Gewessler (Greens).

READ MORE: REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply

Van der Bellen speaks out over citizenship and Austria’s military

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper he believes in making it easier to become naturalized as an Austrian. In the interview he said the hurdles for obtaining citizenship were currently “too high”. He has also given an interview to Der Standard in which he says Austria should spend more on its army and increase the number of diplomats, though he draws the line at joining NATO, arguing Austria does not need to be so “bellicose”.

Van der Bellen has gathered further support for his aim to be re-elected in the autumn from the ÖVP government team. Although the People’s Party does not officially recommend his election, State Secretary Florian Tursky (ÖVP)  has said he would support his fellow Tyrolean. However, Van der Bellen will face competition from the head of Austria’s Beer Party Dominik Wlazny, who also goes by the name of his alter ego, Marco Pogo, as well as candidates from the anti-vaccination MFG party and the far right FPÖ. 

READ ALSO: Could presidential criticism lead to Austrian citizenship rule changes?

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Hot weather today in Vienna and storms in Austria this weekend, parents wait for school information, no plans to tax profits of energy companies and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna to bake in scorching temperatures on Friday

Today (Friday) will be one of the hottest days of the year in Vienna, with temperatures predicted to soar to 37 degrees by the afternoon. During the day, clouds will form over Austria’s mountains and from midday there will be heavy showers and thunderstorms from the Silvretta to western Upper Styria. Away from the mountains it  will stay  sunny for a long time, though towards evening the chance of thunderstorms increases from Lake Constance to Upper Austria.

Over the weekend there will also be storms across much of Austria, particularly on the north side of the alps, and there will be a brisk north-east wind in the east. Temperatures will drop to between 22 and 31 degrees. 

School Covid-19 measures to be revealed on August 29th

Parents will not know what exact measures schools will take to combat Covid-19 infections in the autumn term until August 29th, when the Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) will release guidance based on the measures taken by the Ministry of Health, the newspaper Heute reports.

As The Local has previously reported, the Austrian government has already released a four-point plan for schools the next academic year, including an “early warning system”, an advanced testing strategy, vaccination, and air purification equipment to be used in classrooms. 

READ MORE: What will the rules be for children returning to school in Austria this autumn

No plan to tax profits of high-earning energy companies 

Austria’s federal government is not planning to tax the excess profits of high-earning energy companies, although UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accused  corporations of making “excessive” profits from the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war and the European Parliament passed a resolution in May calling for the introduction of an excess profit tax. Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) has told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that a windfall profit tax would also have affected renewable providers, broadcaster ORF reports. He believes federal states should take measures if there are unfair profits. The opposition SPÖ party continues to push for a special tax on excessively high corporate profits from energy companies. They estimate the additional income of the energy producers and suppliers at four to six billion euros.

ÖGB Trade Union Confederation calls for nationwide protests against ‘price explosion’

The Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB) is planning protests throughout Austria for September 17 – and is calling on the government to act quickly to combat inflation. 

A statement by the ÖGB states prices are “rising without end” while corporations are “reaching record profits in energy, fuel and food”. The bill would be paid by the population, and “if nothing happens now, then this will only be the beginning of the inflation wave”. That has to end now. The statement concludes: “Politicians must finally act and can no longer stand idly by and see how our lives become unaffordable.”

Few international tourists visiting Wachau region

International tourists have not returned to the wine-growing Wachau region of Austria in large numbers, broadcaster ORF reports. Although many cruise ships are now sailing along the Danube, many are only 20 percent full. Australian, American, Asian and Russian tourists have not been visiting the area since the pandemic, the broadcaster reports.

Large-scale operation because of illegal campfires on Schneeberg

According to the fire brigade, an illegal campfire led to a large-scale operation on Schneeberg in Lower Austria yesterday. The fire had spread in steep terrain. The fire brigade warns against carelessness as there was a major fire in Hirschwang last year, broadcaster ORF reports.

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