Austria

 

 

 

 

 

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Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location at the eastern end of the Alps. This mountain range dominates the western and southern parts of Austria while the country’s lower-lying eastern provinces are in the Danube basin.

The most important sectors of Austria’s economy in 2015 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (22.9 %), industry (21.9 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (17.4 %).

Austria’s main export partners are Germany, the US and Italy, while its main import partners are Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

 Capital: Vienna

Geographical size: 83 879 km²
Population: 8 576 261 (2015)
Population as % of total EU: 1.7 % (2015)
Gross domestic product (GDP): € 337.162 billion (2015)
Official EU language(s): German
Political system: federal parliamentary republic
EU member country since: 1 January 1995
Seats in the European Parliament: 18
Currency: Euro. Member of the eurozone since 1 January 1999
Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 1 December 2007.
 
Presidency of the Council: 

Austria has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU twice: in 1998 and 2006. The next time will be in 2018

 Image result for who is the president of austria 2016

H.E Heinz Fischer-President of Austria

 Portrait Christian Kern

H.E Christian Kern

Federal Chancellor of Austria

 Portrait Thomas Drozda © vbw

Hon Thomas Drozda

Federal Minister of Austria

 
     
     

AUSTRIA HISTORICAL FACTS

 

The Republic of Austria is a federal republic and a landlocked country of over 8.66 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,879 square kilometres (32,386 sq mi). The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 metres (12,461 ft).The majority of the population speak local Bavarian dialects of German language as their native language,and Austrian German in its standard form is the country's official language Other local official languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. From the time of the Reformation, many Northern German princes, resenting the authority of the Emperor, used Protestantism as a flag of rebellion. The Thirty Years War, the influence of the Kingdom of Sweden and Kingdom of France, the rise of the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Napoleonic invasions all weakened the power of the Emperor in the North of Germany, but in the South, and in non-German areas of the Empire, the Emperor and Catholicism maintained control. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria was able to retain its position as one of the great powers of Europe and, in response to the coronation of Napoleon as the Emperor of the French, the Austrian Empire was officially proclaimed in 1804. Following Napoleon's defeat, Prussia emerged as Austria's chief competitor for rule of a larger Germany. Austria's defeat by Prussia at the Battle of Königgrätz, during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, cleared the way for Prussia to assert control over the rest of Germany. In 1867, the empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary. After the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Austria was left out of the formation of a new German Empire, although in the following decades its politics, and its foreign policy, increasingly converged with those of the Prussian-led Empire. During the 1914 July Crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Germany guided Austria in issuing the ultimatum to Serbia that led to the declaration of World War I.

After the collapse of the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I, Austria adopted and used the name the Republic of German-Austria (Deutschösterreich, later Österreich) in an attempt for union with Germany, but was forbidden due to the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). The First Austrian Republic was established in 1919. In the 1938 Anschluss, Austria was occupied and annexed by Nazi Germany.This lasted until the end of World War II in 1945, after which Germany was occupied by the Allies and Austria's former democratic constitution was restored. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the occupation. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament created the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral.

Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states.The capital and largest city, with a population exceeding 1.7 million, is Vienna.

Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $43,546. The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2014 was ranked 21st in the world for its Human Development Index. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955,joined the European Union in 1995,and is a founder of the OECD.Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995,and adopted the euro currency in 1999.

Settled in ancient times,the Central European land that is now Austria was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtictribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. Present day Petronell-Carnuntum in Eastern Austria was an important army camp turned capital city in what became known as the Upper Pannonia province. Carnuntum was home for 50,000 people for nearly 400 years.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars.Charlemagne, King of the Franks, conquered the area in AD 788, encouraged colonisation and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.

The first record showing the name Austria is from 996, where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March.In 1156 the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs was extinguished.

As a result, Ottokar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia.His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolph I of Germany in 1278.Thereafter, until World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.

 

MIDDLE AGE

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of the Duchy of Austria. In 1438 Duke Albert V of Austria was chosen as the successor to his father-in-law, Emperor Sigismund. Although Albert himself only reigned for a year, henceforth every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was a Habsburg, with only one exception.

 
The Battle of Vienna in 1683 broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe.

The Habsburgs began also to accumulate lands far from the hereditary lands. In 1477 Archduke Maximilian, only son of Emperor Frederick III, married the heiress Maria of Burgundy, thus acquiring most of the Netherlands for the family.His son Philip the Fair married Joanna the Mad, the heiress of Castile and Aragon, and thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African and New World appendages for the Habsburgs.

In 1526 following the Battle of Mohács, Bohemia and the part of Hungary not occupied by the Ottomans came under Austrian rule.Ottoman expansion into Hungary led to frequent conflicts between the two empires, particularly evident in the Long War of 1593 to 1606. The Turks made incursions into Styria nearly twenty times;which some of them are cited as "burning, pillaging, and taking thousands of slaves.

17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES

During the long reign of Leopold I (1657–1705) and following the successful defence of Vienna in 1683 (under the command of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski), a series of campaigns resulted in bringing all of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.

Emperor Charles VI relinquished many of the gains the empire made in the previous years, largely due to his apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg. Charles was willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. With the rise of Prussia the Austrian–Prussian dualism began in Germany. Austria participated, together with Prussia and Russia, in the first and the third of the three Partitions of Poland (in 1772 and 1795).

19TH CENTURY

Austria later became engaged in a war with Revolutionary France, at the beginning highly unsuccessfully, with successive defeats at the hands of Napoleon meaning the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Two years earlier,in 1804, the Empire of Austria was founded. In 1814 Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic Wars.

 

It emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of the continent's four dominant powers and a recognised great power. The same year, the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) was founded under the presidency of Austria. Because of unsolved social, political and national conflicts the German lands were shaken by the 1848 revolution aiming to create a unified Germany.

A unified Germany would have been possible either as a Greater Germany, or a Greater Austria or just the German Confederation without Austria at all. As Austria was not willing to relinquish its German-speaking territories to what would become the German Empire of 1848, the crown of the newly formed empire was offered to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In 1864, Austria and Prussia fought together against Denmark and secured the independence from Denmark of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. But as they could not agree on how the two duchies should be administered, they fought the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Defeated by Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz,Austria had to leave the German Confederation and subsequently no longer took part in German politics.

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Ausgleich, provided for a dual sovereignty, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I.The Austrian-Hungarian rule of this diverse empire included various Slavic groups, including Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians, as well as large Italian and Romanian communities.

As a result, ruling Austria–Hungary became increasingly difficult in an age of emerging nationalist movements, requiring considerable reliance on an expanded secret police. Yet the government of Austria tried its best to be accommodating in some respects: The Reichsgesetzblatt, publishing the laws and ordinances of Cisleithania, was issued in eight languages; and all national groups were entitled to schools in their own language and to the use of their mother tongue at state offices, for example.

20TH CENTURY

In 1908 Austria-Hungary found an excuse in the promulgation of the Second Constitutional Era in the Ottoman Empire to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina.The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip was used by leading Austrian politicians and generals to persuade the emperor to declare war on Serbia, thereby risking and prompting the outbreak of World War I, which eventually led to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Over one million Austro-Hungarian soldiers died in World War I

POST WAR SETTLEMENTS

On 21 October 1918, the elected German members of the Reichsrat (parliament of Imperial Austria) met in Vienna as the Provisional National Assembly for German Austria (Provisorische Nationalversammlung für Deutschösterreich). On 30 October the assembly founded the State of German Austria by appointing a government, called Staatsrat. This new government was invited by the Emperor to take part in the decision on the planned armistice with Italy, but refrained from this business.

This left the responsibility for the end of the war, on 3 November 1918, solely to the Emperor and his government. On 11 November the emperor, advised by ministers of the old and the new government, declared he would not take part in state business any more; on 12 November German Austria, by law, declared itself to be a democratic republic and part of the new German republic. The constitution, renaming the Staatsrat as Bundesregierung(federal government) and Nationalversammlung as Nationalrat (national council) was passed on 10 November 1920.

 
German speaking provinces claimed by German-Austria in 1918. The border of the subsequent Second Republic of Austria is outlined in red

The Treaty of Saint-Germain of 1919 (for Hungary the Treaty of Trianon of 1920) confirmed and consolidated the new order of Central Europe which to a great extent had been established in November 1918, creating new states and altering others. Over 3 million German-speaking Austrians found themselves living outside the newborn Austrian Republic as minorities in the newly formed or enlarged states of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Italy.These included the provinces of South Tyrol (which became part of Italy) and German Bohemia (Czechoslovakia). The status of German Bohemia (Sudetenland) later played a role in sparking the Second World War.

The status of South Tyrol was a lingering problem between Austria and Italy until it was officially settled by the 1980s with a great degree of autonomy being granted to it by the Italian national government. Between 1918 and 1919 Austria was known as the State of German Austria (Staat Deutschösterreich). Not only did the Entente powers forbid German Austria to unite with Germany, they also rejected the name German Austria in the peace treaty to be signed; it was therefore changed to Republic of Austria in late 1919.

The border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) was settled with the Carinthian Plebiscite in October 1920 and allocated the major part of the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Crownland of Carinthia to Austria. This set the border on the Karawanken mountain range, with many Slovenes remaining in Austria.

AFTER WORLDWAR

Much like Germany, Austria was divided into American, British, French and Soviet zones and governed by the Allied Commission for Austria.As forecast in the Moscow Declaration in 1943, there was a subtle difference in the treatment of Austria by the Allies.The Austrian government, consisting of Social Democrats, Conservatives and Communists (until 1947), and residing in Vienna, which was surrounded by the Soviet zone, was recognised by the Western Allies in October 1945 after some doubts that Renner could be Stalin's puppet. Thus the creation of a separate Western Austrian government and the division of the country was avoidable. Austria, in general, was treated as though it had been originally invaded by Germany and liberated by the Allies.

On 15 May 1955, after talks which lasted for years and were influenced by the Cold War, Austria regained full independence by concluding the Austrian State Treaty with the Four Occupying Powers. On 26 October 1955, after all occupation troops had left, Austria declared its "permanent neutrality" by an act of parliament.

 
Austria joined the European Union in 1995 and signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.

The political system of the Second Republic is based on the constitution of 1920 and 1929, which was reintroduced in 1945. The system came to be characterised by Proporz, meaning that most posts of political importance were split evenly between members of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).Interest group "chambers" with mandatory membership (e.g. for workers, business people, farmers) grew to considerable importance and were usually consulted in the legislative process, so that hardly any legislation was passed that did not reflect widespread consensus.

Since 1945, governing via a single-party government has occurred between 1966–1970 (ÖVP) and 1970–1983 (SPÖ). During all other legislative periods, either a grand coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP or a "small coalition" (one of these two and a smaller party) ruled the country.

Kurt Waldheim, an SS intelligence officer in the Second World War accused of war crimes,was elected President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.

Following a referendum in 1994, at which consent reached a majority of two-thirds, the country became a member of the European Union on 1 January 1995.

The major parties SPÖ and ÖVP have contrary opinions about the future status of Austria's military non-alignment: While the SPÖ in public supports a neutral role, the ÖVP argues for stronger integration into the EU's security policy; even a future NATO membership is not ruled out by some ÖVP politicians (ex. Dr Werner Fasslabend (OVP) in 1997). In reality, Austria is taking part in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, participates in peacekeeping and peace creating tasks, and has become a member of NATO's "Partnership for Peace"; the constitution has been amended accordingly. Since Liechtenstein joined the Schengen Area in 2011, none of Austria's neighbouring countries performs border controls towards it anymore.

 

GOVERNANCE

The Parliament of Austria is located in Vienna, the country's largest city and capital. Austria became a federal, representative democratic republic through the Federal Constitution of 1920. The political system of the Second Republic with its nine states is based on the constitution of 1920, amended in 1929, which was reenacted on 1 May 1945.

The head of state is the Federal President (Bundespräsident), who is directly elected by popular vote. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the President. The government can be removed from office by either a presidential decree or by vote of no confidence in the lower chamber of parliament, the Nationalrat. Voting for the Federal President and for the Parliament used to be compulsory in Austria, but this was abolished in steps from 1982 to 2004.

The Parliament of Austria consists of two chambers. The composition of the Nationalrat (183 seats) is determined every five years (or whenever the Nationalrat has been dissolved by the federal president on a motion by the federal chancellor, or by Nationalrat itself) by a general election in which every citizen over 16 years (since 2007) has voting rights. While there is a general threshold of 4% for all parties at federal elections (Nationalratswahlen), there remains the possibility to gain a direct seat, or Direktmandat, in one of the 43 regional election districts.

The Nationalrat is the dominant chamber in the formation of legislation in Austria. However, the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has a limited right of veto (the Nationalrat can—in almost all cases—ultimately pass the respective bill by voting a second time. This is referred to as 'Beharrungsbeschluss, lit. "vote of persistence"). A convention, called the Österreich -Konvent was convened on 30 June 2003 to decide upon suggestions to reform the constitution, but failed to produce a proposal that would receive the two-thirds of votes in the Nationalrat necessary for constitutional amendments and/or reform.

With legislative and executive, the courts are the third column of Austrian state powers. Notably the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof) may exert considerable influence on the political system by ruling out laws and ordinances not in compliance with the constitution. Since 1995, the European Court of Justice may overrule Austrian decisions in all matters defined in laws of the European Union. Austria also implements the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, since the European Convention on Human Rights is part of the Austrian constitution.

DIPLOMATIC AFFAIRS

The 1955 Austrian State Treaty ended the occupation of Austria following World War II and recognised Austria as an independent and sovereign state. On 26 October 1955, the Federal Assembly passed a constitutional article in which "Austria declares of her own free will her perpetual neutrality". The second section of this law stated that "in all future times Austria will not join any military alliances and will not permit the establishment of any foreign military bases on her territory". Since then, Austria has shaped its foreign policy on the basis of neutrality, but rather different from the neutrality of Switzerland.

Austria began to reassess its definition of neutrality following the fall of the Soviet Union, granting overflight rights for the UN-sanctioned action against Iraq in 1991, and, since 1995, it has developed participation in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Also in 1995, it joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and subsequently participated in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the only part of the Constitutional Law on Neutrality of 1955 still fully valid is not to allow foreign military bases in Austria.

Austria attaches great importance to participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international economic organisations, and it has played an active role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As an OSCE participating State, Austria's international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

MILITARY CAPABILITY

The manpower of the Austrian Armed Forces (German: Bundesheer) mainly relies on conscription. All males who have reached the age of eighteen and are found fit have to serve a six months compulsory military service, followed by an eight-year reserve obligation. Both males and females at the age of sixteen are eligible for voluntary service.Conscientious objection is legally acceptable and those who claim this right are obliged to serve an institutionalised nine months civilian serviceinstead. Since 1998, women volunteers have been allowed to become professional soldiers.

The main sectors of the Bundesheer are Joint Forces (Streitkräfteführungskommando, SKFüKdo) which consist of Land Forces (Landstreitkräfte), Air Forces (Luftstreitkräfte), International Missions (Internationale Einsätze) and Special Forces (Spezialeinsatzkräfte), next to Joint Mission Support Command (Kommando Einsatzunterstützung; KdoEU) and Joint Command Support Centre (Führungsunterstützungszentrum; FüUZ). Austria is a landlocked country and has no navy.


Since the end of the Cold War, and more importantly the removal of the former heavily guarded "Iron Curtain" separating Austria and its Eastern Bloc neighbours (Hungary and former Czechoslovakia), the Austrian military has been assisting Austrian border guards in trying to prevent border crossings by illegal immigrants. This assistance came to an end when Hungary and Slovakia joined the EU Schengen Area in 2008, for all intents and purposes abolishing "internal" border controls between treaty states. Some politicians have called for a prolongation of this mission, but the legality of this is heavily disputed. In accordance with the Austrian constitution, armed forces may only be deployed in a limited number of cases, mainly to defend the country and aid in cases of national emergency, such as in the wake of natural disasters.They may generally not be used as auxiliary police forces.In 2012, Austria's defence expenditures corresponded to approximately 0.8% of its GDP. The Army currently has about 26,000 soldiers, of whom about 12,000 are conscripts. As head of state, Austrian President (currently held jointly by three individuals due to the annulled 2016 election) is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Bundesheer. In practical reality, however, command of the Austrian Armed Forces is almost exclusively exercised by the Minister of Defence, currently Hans Peter Doskozil.

Within its self-declared status of permanent neutrality, Austria has a long and proud tradition of engaging in UN-led peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions. The Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU), in particular, an all-volunteer unit with close ties to civilian specialists (e.g. rescue dog handlers) enjoys a reputation as a quick (standard deployment time is 10 hours) and efficient SAR unit. Currently, larger contingents of Austrian forces are deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo.

GOVERNANCE DIVISIONS

As a federal republic, Austria is divided into nine states.These states are then divided into districts (Bezirke) and statutory cities (Statutarstädte). Districts are subdivided into municipalities (Gemeinden). Statutory Cities have the competencies otherwise granted to both districts and municipalities. The states are not mere administrative divisions but have some legislative authority distinct from the federal government, e.g. in matters of culture, social care, youth and nature protection, hunting, building, and zoning ordinances. In recent years, it has been discussed whether today it is appropriate for a small country to maintain ten parliaments.

GEOGRAPHY

Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps.[73] The Central Eastern Alps, Northern Limestone Alps and Southern Limestone Alps are all partly in Austria. Of the total area of Austria (84,000 km2 or 32,433 sq mi), only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft). The Alps of western Austria give way somewhat into low lands and plains in the eastern part of the country.

Austria lies between latitudes 46° and 49° N, and longitudes and 18° E.

It can be divided into five areas, the biggest being the Eastern Alps, which constitute 62% of the nation's total area. The Austrian foothills at the base of the Alps and the Carpathians account for around 12% and the foothills in the east and areas surrounding the periphery of the Pannoni low country amount to about 12% of the total landmass. The second greater mountain area (much lower than the Alps) is situated in the north. Known as the Austrian granite plateau, it is located in the central area of the Bohemian Mass and accounts for 10% of Austria. The Austrian portion of the Vienna basin comprises the remaining 4%.

Austria belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Austria can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests, Pannonian mixed forests, Alps conifer and mixed forests and Western European broadleaf forests.

ECONOMY

Austria is the 12th richest country in the world in terms of GDP (Gross domestic product) per capita,has a well-developed social market economy, and a high standard of living. Until the 1980s, many of Austria's largest industry firms were nationalised; in recent years, however, privatisation has reduced state holdings to a level comparable to other European economies. Labour movements are particularly strong in Austria and have large influence on labour politics. Next to a highly developed industry, international tourism is the most important part of the national economy.

Germany has historically been the main trading partner of Austria, making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. Since Austria became a member state of the European Union, it has gained closer ties to other EU economies, reducing its economic dependence on Germany. In addition, membership of the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to the aspiring economies of the European Union. Growth in GDP reached 3.3% in 2006.

At least 67% of Austria's imports come from other European Union member states

Austria indicated on 16 November 2010 that it would withhold the December installment of its contribution to the EU bailout of Greece, citing the material worsening of the Greek debt situation and the apparent inability of Greece to collect the level of tax receipts it had previously promised.

The Eurozone crisis dented the economy of Austria in other ways as well. It caused, for example, the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International to be purchased in December 2009 by the government for 1 euro owing to credit difficulties, thus wiping out the euro 1.63bn of BayernLB. As of February 2014, the HGAA situation was unresolved,causing Chancellor Werner Faymann to warn that its failure would be comparable to the 1931 Creditanstalt event.

Since the fall of communism, Austrian companies have been quite active players and consolidators in Eastern Europe. Between 1995 and 2010, 4,868 mergers and acquisitions with a total known value of 163 bil. EUR with the involvement of Austrian firms have been announced.The largest transactions with involvement of Austrian companies have been: the acquisition of Bank Austria by Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank for 7.8 billion EUR in 2000, the acquisition of Porsche Holding Salzburg by Volkswagen Group for 3.6 billion EUR in 2009,and the acquisition of Banca Comercială Română by Erste Group for 3.7 bil. EUR in 2005.

TOURISM

Tourism accounts for almost 9% of the Austrian gross domestic product.In 2007, Austria ranked 9th worldwide in international tourism receipts, with 18.9 billion US$.In international tourist arrivals, Austria ranked 12th with 20.8 million tourists.

ENERGY

In 1972, the country began construction of a nuclear-powered electricity-generation station at Zwentendorf on the River Danube, following a unanimous vote in parliament. However, in 1978, a referendum voted approximately 50.5% against nuclear power, 49.5% for,and parliament subsequently unanimously passed a law forbidding the use of nuclear power to generate electricity although the nuclear power plant was already finished.

Austria currently produces more than half of its electricity by hydropower.Together with other renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass powerplants, the electricity supply from renewable energy amounts to 62.89% of total use in Austria, with the rest being produced by gas and oil power plants.

 

ACADEMICS

Education in Austria is entrusted partly to the Austrian states (Bundesländer) and partly to the federal government. School attendance is compulsory for nine years, i.e. usually to the age of fifteen.

Pre-school education (called Kindergarten in German), free in most states, is provided for all children between the ages of three and six years and, whilst optional, is considered a normal part of a child's education due to its high takeup rate. Maximum class size is around 30, each class normally being cared for by one qualified teacher and one assistant.

Primary education, or Volksschule, lasts for four years, starting at age six. The maximum class size is 30, but may be as low as 15. It is generally expected that a class will be taught by one teacher for the entire four years and the stable bond between teacher and pupil is considered important for a child's well-being. The 3Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) dominate lesson time, with less time allotted to project work than in the UK. Children work individually and all members of a class follow the same plan of work. There is no streaming.

Standard attendance times are 8 am to 12 pm or 1 pm, with hourly five- or ten-minute breaks. Children are given homework daily from the first year. Historically there has been no lunch hour, with children returning home to eat. However, due to a rise in the number of mothers in work, primary schools are increasingly offering pre-lesson and afternoon care.

As in Germany, secondary education consists of two main types of schools, attendance at which is based on a pupil's ability as determined by grades from the primary school. The Gymnasium caters for the more able children, in the final year of which the Matura examination is taken, which is a requirement for access to university. The Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education but also for various types of further education (Höhere Technische Lehranstalt HTL = institution of higher technical education; HAK = commercial academy; HBLA = institution of higher education for economic business; etc.). Attendance at one of these further education institutes also leads to the Matura. Some schools aim to combine the education available at the Gymnasium and the Hauptschule, and are known as Gesamtschulen. In addition, a recognition of the importance of learning English has led some Gymnasiums to offer a bilingual stream, in which pupils deemed able in languages follow a modified curriculum, a portion of the lesson time being conducted in English.

As at primary school, lessons at Gymnasium begin at 8 am and continue with short intervals until lunchtime or early afternoon, with children returning home to a late lunch. Older pupils often attend further lessons after a break for lunch, generally eaten at school. As at primary level, all pupils follow the same plan of work. Great emphasis is placed on homework and frequent testing. Satisfactory marks in the end-of-the-year report ("Zeugnis") are a prerequisite for moving up ("aufsteigen") to the next class. Pupils who do not meet the required standard re-sit their tests at the end of the summer holidays; those whose marks are still not satisfactory are required to re-sit the year ("sitzenbleiben").

It is not uncommon for a pupil to re-sit more than one year of school. After completing the first two years, pupils choose between one of two strands, known as "Gymnasium" (slightly more emphasis on arts) or "Realgymnasium" (slightly more emphasis on science). Whilst many schools offer both strands, some do not, and as a result, some children move schools for a second time at age 12. At age 14, pupils may choose to remain in one of these two strands, or to change to a vocational course, possibly with a further change of school.

The Austrian university system had been open to any student who passed the Matura examination until recently. A 2006 bill allowed the introduction of entrance exams for studies such as Medicine. In 2001, an obligatory tuition fee ("Studienbeitrag") of €363.36 per term was introduced for all public universities. Since 2008, for all EU students the studies have been free of charge, as long as a certain time-limit is not exceeded (the expected duration of the study plus usually two terms tolerance).When the time-limit is exceeded, the fee of around €363.36 per term is charged. Some further exceptions to the fee apply, e.g. for students with a year's salary of more than about €5000. In all cases, an obligatory fee of €17 is charged for the student union and insurance.

 

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