Podcasts about Austria

We are excited to start sharing podcasts about Austria on this page. Are you a tourist visiting this beautiful country? Or maybe even an Austrian who is looking for something special? We encourage you to listen in to our podcasts for some special tips! If you are looking for more general information, we highly recommend browsing the Austrian Tourism website.

COVID-19 in Austria

Translated from an ORF article, journalist: Sinan Ersek

The ability to adapt to uncertainty, meaning not being able to predict the future, not being in control, prompted new behaviors and demanded for adaptation and at times drastic change in Austria like anywhere else.

Regarding the political reaction to the pandemic, restrictions came early and were extremely rigorous. The public would not have co-operated and accepted the strict measures, had it not seen the worrying pictures and concerning data from neighboring Italy.

Additionally the “Ischgl-Gate” and other ski resorts in the Tyrolean Alps made it clear how rapid the exponential growth of the virus really was. In comparison, the capital of Vienna with, around 2 million inhabitants, accounted for roughly 2,300 (officially) infected cases. A proof of a strong West-East gradient. 

It appears that “The Hammer and the Dance “ has been extremely well followed. The chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, very quickly and unmistakably stated: “Soon each one of us will know of someone who died from the virus“. Austrians accepted and understood this martial warning. Soon thereafter the people started to waltz again, a small relaxation of measures here, another exception there.

Kurz united the majority of Austrians under the idea of protecting everyone’s health and economical stability. Balancing Life and Livelihood. Concrete information, including negative information, has been communicated in a crystal clear and honest way. Informing the public via daily press-conferences about processes, expectations, and consequences including back-up plans outlining what will happen if plans should not develop as expected.

The general public was never under the impression that they had been insufficiently informed. This culture of honesty and trust enabled everyone to think, talk, share, and make informed decisions. 

From a medical point of view, Austria has different prerequisites than neighboring Italy or Spain. Over the past 40 years considerable investment went towards the health care system. It could very well be the trust in this system that is the reason for the notorious Austrian “Gemütlichkeit“. Even if Austrians love to whine and complain, deep down they trust and know that all will be fine and that the system will back them.

The acceptance of authority (in this case of a young and charismatic Sebastian Kurz) enveloped varieties of interaction. No Anti-lockdown protests occurred like in various other countries and even those who did not vote for Kurz, accepted his leadership.

It might be worthwhile to mention that the patience and acceptance rate of the public may be explained by the spatial and geographical structure of the country. Austria is still a rural country. Even in Vienna, the only large city, numerous green spaces prevail, including parks, the so-called “Schrebergärten“ (similar to community gardens), the surrounding Vienna woods, fields and bike paths along the Danube.

 

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Austria’s New Government

What does Austria’s political future look like?

Austria’s political landscape in the past

For the last few decades, Austria’s government was comprised of a coalition of the top two parties, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). The political landscape included a slew of other parties, with the most dominant ones being the left Green Party (Die Grünen) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

 

The ÖVP won the 2017 election, having the greatest number of seats and followed by a widely publicized national and international outcry, formed a coalition with the right-wing populist FPÖ.

 

The scandal in 2019

On May 27th 2019, Austria´s chancellor Sebastian Kurz from the Austrian People’s Party was removed from office in a vote of no confidence among legislators after a secretly recorded video was published. In this critical video the FPÖ’s leader Heinz Christian Strache was caught offering political favors to a young woman they believed to be the niece of a wealthy Russian oligarch, advising her how to increase Russia´s influence in Austria. Headlines were dominating the news all over the world and Austria had to prepare for a new election in the fall of 2019.

 

Re-election in fall of 2019

However, the scandal of the so called “Ibiza-affair” had not affected former chancellor Kurz majorly during the re-elections, whereas right party had to take a big hit on votes. Previous FPÖ leader Strache had to resign from office as he was criticized widely. Sebastian Kurz’s party ÖVP once again won the election with 34.55% of all votes followed by the SPÖ with 23.89%. 3rd came the FPÖ with 17.20% despite losing about 10% compared to the former election. On the other side, Die Grünen benefited greatly from this scandal, but also from the world-wide more traction-gaining climate movement, finishing with 14.08%. The remaining percentage points were split among the NEOS (8.44%), the JETZT (1.04%) and other parties (0.80%).

 

Coalition & goals for the new government

Recently, the news came out that the ÖVP decided to start a new coalition with Die Grünen. Now what does that mean for Austria’s future? On paper, it´s a significant political shift since the left party Die Grünen will replace the right FPÖ in this coalition. The coalition deal includes that Die Grünen will head 4 ministries, among other things, the environmental and justice portfolios. On the other side, the peoples party will hold onto the rest of the Ministries, including the Interior, Defense and Finance Ministries. The influence of Die Grünen can be seen with environmental goals. Austria will seek to be carbon neutral by 2040 and put a price on CO2 emissions. Beginning 2030, all of Austria’s electricity is to be produced by renewable energy sources and air-travel will become more expensive in order to make railway transportation more attractive. Also to mention, despite the tax cuts, the new government doesn’t plan on new debt. Conservative priorities include plans to expand a headscarf ban for girls under 14-years-old.

 

Kurz mentioned in a statement that this is an ideal coalition because he believes he brought together the best of both worlds. At the end of the day, such a coalition hasn’t been seen before in Europe, so therefore the world is watching and curious how chancellor Sebastian Kurz will get along with Werner Kogler the head of Die Grünen, only time will tell.

 

Watch the videos from interim-Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein: