Republic of Austria
83,857 sq. km. (32,377 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Maine.
(2005 pop. 1.63 million). Other cities--Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck,
Terrain: Alpine (64%), northern highlands that form part of the
Bohemian Massif (10%), lowlands to the east (26%).
Climate: Continental temperate.
Nationality: Noun and
Population (2006): 8,192,880.
rate (2006): 0.09%.
Ethnic groups: Germans 98%, Turks, Croats, Slovenes, Bosniaks;
other recognized minorities include Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and Roma.
Roman Catholic 73.6%, Lutheran 4.7%, Muslim 4.2%, other 5.5, no confession 12.0%.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--99%.
Health (2006): Infant mortality rate--4.6 deaths/1,000.
Life expectancy--men 76.17 years, women 82.11 years.
Work force (2005,
3.49 million): Services--70%; agriculture and forestry--3%, industry--27%.
Type: Federal Parliamentary
Constitution: 1920; revised 1929 (reinstated May 1, 1945).
Executive--federal president (chief of state), chancellor (head of government),
cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Federal Assembly (Parliament). Judicial--Constitutional
Court, Administrative Court, Supreme Court.
Political parties: Social Democratic
Party, People's Party, Freedom Party, Greens, Alliance--Future-Austria.
Universal over 18.
Administrative subdivisions: Nine Bundeslaender (federal
Defense (2004): 0.9% of GDP.
GDP (2005): $297.7 (@ exchange rate of 1.21:1) billion.
Real GDP growth
rate (2005): 1.9%.
Per capita income (2005): $32,700.
Iron ore, crude oil, natural gas, timber, tungsten, magnesite, lignite, cement.
(1.8% of 2003 GDP): Products--livestock, forest products, grains, sugarbeets,
potatoes, wine, fruits.
Industry (30.4% of 2004 GDP): Types--iron and
steel, chemicals, capital equipment, consumer goods.
Services: 68% of 2003
Trade (2005): Exports--$114.59 billion: iron and steel products,
timber, paper, textiles, electrotechnical machinery, chemical products, foodstuffs.
Imports--$116.88 billion: machinery, vehicles, chemicals, iron and steel,
metal goods, fuels, raw materials, foodstuffs. Principal trade partners--European
Union, Switzerland, U.S., and China.
Austrians are a homogeneous people; 92% are native German
speakers. Only two numerically significant minority groups exist--18,000 Slovenes
in Carinthia (south central Austria) and about 19,400 Croats in Burgenland (on
the Hungarian border). The Slovenes form a closely-knit community. Their rights
as well as those of the Croats are protected by law and generally respected in
practice. The present boundaries of Austria, once the center of the Habsburg Empire
that constituted the second-largest state in Europe, formed in accordance with
the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919. Some Austrians, particularly near Vienna, still
have relatives in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. About 74% of all
Austrians are Roman Catholic. The church abstains from political activity. Small
Lutheran minorities are located mainly in Vienna, Carinthia, and Burgenland.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire played a decisive
role in central European history. It occupied strategic territory containing the
southeastern routes to western Europe and the north-south routes between Germany
and Italy. Present-day Austria retains this unique position.
after the Republic of Austria was created at the end of World War I, it faced
the strains of catastrophic inflation and of adapting a large government structure
to the needs of a new, smaller republic. In the early 1930s, worldwide depression
and unemployment added to these strains and shattered traditional Austrian society.
In 1933, Engelbert Dollfuss formed a conservative autocracy. In February 1934,
civil war broke out between the conservative government and the Socialists, and
the Dolfuss government outlawed the Socialist Party. In July, the National Socialists
attempted a coup d'etat, assassinating Dollfuss. In March 1938, Germany occupied
Austria and incorporated it into the German Reich. This development is commonly
known as the "Anschluss" (annexation).
the Moscow conference in 1943, the Allies declared their intention to liberate
and reconstitute Austria. In April 1945, both Eastern- and Western-front Allied
forces liberated the country. Subsequently, the victorious allies divided Austria
into zones of occupation similar to those in Germany with a four-power administration
of Vienna. Under the 1945 Potsdam agreements, the Soviets took control of German
assets in their zone of occupation. These included 7% of Austria's manufacturing
plants, 95% of its oil resources, and about 80% of its refinery capacity. The
properties returned to Austria under the Austrian State Treaty. This treaty, signed
in Vienna on May 15, 1955, came into effect on July 27, and, under its provisions,
all occupation forces departed by October 25, 1955. Austria became free and independent
for the first time since 1938.
The Austrian president convenes and concludes parliamentary sessions and under
certain conditions can dissolve Parliament. However, no Austrian president has
dissolved Parliament in the Second Republic. The custom is for Parliament to call
for new elections if needed. The president requests a party leader, usually the
leader of the strongest party, to form a government. Upon the recommendation of
the Federal Chancellor, the president also appoints cabinet ministers.
Federal Assembly (Parliament) consists of two houses--the National Council (Nationalrat),
or lower house, and the Federal Council (Bundesrat), or upper house. Legislative
authority resides in the National Council. Its 183 members serve for a maximum
term of four years in a three-tiered system, on the basis of proportional representation.
The National Council may dissolve itself by a simple majority vote or the president
may dissolve it on the recommendation of the Chancellor. The nine state legislatures
elect the 62 members of the Federal Council for 5- to 6-year terms. The Federal
Council only reviews legislation passed by the National Council and can delay
but not veto its enactment.
courts of Austria's independent judiciary are the Constitutional Court; the Administrative
Court, which handles bureaucratic disputes; and the Supreme Court, for civil and
criminal cases. While the Supreme Court is the court of highest instance for the
judiciary, the Administrative Court acts as the supervisory body over government
administrative acts of the executive branch, and the Constitutional Court presides
over constitutional issues. The Federal President appoints the justices of the
three courts for specific terms.
of Austria's nine Bundeslaender (states) elect the governors. Although most authority,
including that of the police, rests with the federal government, the states have
considerable responsibility for welfare matters and local administration. Strong
state and local loyalties have roots in tradition and history.
Federal President--Heinz Fischer
Vice Chancellor--Hubert Gorbach
Foreign Minister--Ursula Plassnik
Ambassador to the United States--Eva Nowotny
Ambassador to the United Nations--Gerhard
Austria maintains an embassy in the United States at
3524 International Court, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-895-6700). Consulates
General are in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and honorary consulates are
in Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Charlotte, Columbus, Denver, Detroit,
Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Portland, Richmond, St. Paul, St. Louis, St. Thomas, Salt Lake City,
San Francisco, San Juan, and Seattle.
Since World War II, Austria has enjoyed political stability.
A Socialist elder statesman, Dr. Karl Renner, organized an Austrian administration
in the aftermath of the war, and the country held general elections in November
1945. All three major parties--the conservative People’s Party (OVP), the Socialists
(later Social Democratic party or SPO), and Communists--governed until 1947, when
the Communists left the government. The OVP then led a governing coalition with
the SPO that governed until 1966.
1970 and 1999, the SPO governed the country either alone or with junior coalition
partners. In 1999, the OVP formed a coalition with the right wing, populist Freedom
Party (FPO). The SPO, which was the strongest party in the 1999 elections, and
the Greens formed the opposition. The FPO had gained support because of populist
tactics, and many feared it would represent right wing extremism. As a result,
the European Union (EU) imposed a series of sanctions on Austria. The U.S. and
Israel, as well as various other countries, also reduced contacts with the Austrian
Government. After a period of close observation, the EU lifted sanctions, and
the U.S. revised its contacts policy. In the 2002 elections, the OVP became the
largest party, and the FPO's strength declined by more than half. Nevertheless,
the OVP renewed its coalition with the FPO in February 2003. The next national
elections will be held on October 1, 2006.
Social Democratic Party traditionally draws its constituency from blue- and white-collar
workers. Accordingly, much of its strength lies in urban and industrialized areas.
In the 2002 national elections, it garnered 36.5% of the vote. The SPO in the
past advocated heavy state involvement in Austria's key industries, the extension
of social security benefits, and a full-employment policy. Beginning in the mid-1980s,
it shifted its focus to free market-oriented economic policies, balancing the
federal budget, and European Union membership.
People's Party advocates conservative financial policies and privatization of
much of Austria's nationalized industry. It finds support from farmers, large
and small business owners, and some lay Catholic groups, mostly in the rural regions
of Austria. In 2002, it received 42.3% of the vote. The rightist Freedom Party
traditionally had a base in classic European liberalism. However, a mixture of
populism and anti-establishment themes steadily gained support in recent years.
It attracted about 27% of the vote in the 1999 elections, but only 10% of the
vote in 2002. The Alliance-Future-Austria (BZO) split from the FPO in 2005. All
the FPO's Federal Ministers and most of its parliamentarians joined the BZO, and
that party formally became the junior partner in the governing coalition. The
BZO, however, has been unable to draw significant popular support away from the
FPO. The Liberal Forum, founded on libertarian ideals, split from the Freedom
Movement in February 1993. It received 3.7% of the vote in the 1999 election and
thus failed to enter the national legislature. The Liberal Forum will not campaign
in 2006. The Greens, a left-of-center party focusing on environmental issues,
received 9.5% of the national vote in 2002.
Austria has a well-developed social market economy with a high standard of
living in which the government has played an important role. The government nationalized
many of the country's largest firms in the early post-war period to protect them
from Soviet takeover as war reparations. For many years, the government and its
state-owned industries conglomerate played a very important role in the Austrian
economy. However, starting in the early 1990s, the group broke apart, state-owned
firms started to operate largely as private businesses, and the government wholly
or partially privatized many of these firms. Although the government's privatization
work in past years has been very successful, it still operates some firms, state
monopolies, utilities, and services. The Schuessel government has presented an
ambitious privatization program, which it is implementing, and which should further
reduce government participation in the economy. Austria enjoys well-developed
industry, banking, transportation, services, and commercial facilities.
industries, such as several iron and steel works and chemical plants, are large
industrial enterprises employing thousands of people. However, most industrial
and commercial enterprises in Austria are relatively small on an international
Austria has a strong labor movement.
The Austrian Trade Union Federation (OGB) comprises constituent unions with a
total membership of about 1.4 million--about 40% of the country's wage and salary
earners. Since 1945, the OGB has pursued a moderate, consensus-oriented wage policy,
cooperating with industry, agriculture, and the government on a broad range of
social and economic issues in what is known as Austria's "social partnership."
The OGB has announced opposition to the new government's program for budget consolidation,
social reform, and fiscal measures that favor entrepreneurs.
farms, like those of other west European mountainous countries, are small and
fragmented, and production is relatively expensive. Since Austria became a member
of the EU in 1995, the Austrian agricultural sector has been undergoing substantial
reform under the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP). Although Austrian farmers
provide about 80% of domestic food requirements, the agricultural contribution
to gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since 1950 to about 2%.
has achieved sustained economic growth. During the 1950s, the average annual growth
rate was more than 5% in real terms and averaged about 4.5% through most of the
1960s. In the second half of the 1970s, the annual average growth rate was 3%
in real terms, though it averaged only about 1.5% through the first half of the
1980s before rebounding to an average of 3.2% in the second half of the 1980s.
At 2%, growth was weaker again in the first half of the 1990s, but averaged 2.5%
again in the period 1997 to 2001. After real GDP growth of 1.4% in 2002, the economy
grew again only 0.7% in 2003, with 2001-2003 being the longest low-growth period
since World War II. In 2004, Austria’s economy recovered and grew 2.0%, driven
by booming exports in response to strong world economic growth, but it declined
to 1.8% growth in 2005. Predictions are for the economy to grow 2.8-3.2% in 2006
and 2.2% in 2007.
Austria became a
member of the EU on January 1, 1995. Membership brought economic benefits and
challenges and has drawn an influx of foreign investors. Austria also has made
progress in generally increasing its international competitiveness. As a member
of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Austria has integrated its economy with
those of other EU member countries, especially with Germany’s. On January 1, 1999,
Austria introduced the new Euro currency for accounting purposes.
January 2002, Austria introduced Euro notes and coins in place of the Austrian
schilling. Economists agree that the economic effects in Austria of using a common
currency with the rest of the members of the Euro-zone have been positive.
Trade with other EU-25 countries accounts
for about 84% of Austrian imports and exports. Expanding trade and investment
in the new EU members of central and eastern Europe that joined the EU in May
2004 represent a major element of Austrian economic activity. Austrian firms have
sizable investments in and continue to move labor-intensive, low-tech production
to these countries. Although the big investment boom has waned, Austria still
has the potential to attract EU firms seeking convenient access to developing
markets in central and eastern Europe and the Balkan countries.
trade with the United States in 2005 reached $10.3 billion. Imports from the United
States amounted to $3.8 billion, constituting a U.S. market share in Austria of
3.3%. Austrian exports to the United States in 2005 were $6.5 billion, or 5.7%
of total Austrian exports.
The 1955 Austrian State Treaty ended the four-power occupation
and recognized Austria as an independent and sovereign state. In October 1955,
the Federal Assembly passed a constitutional law 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."
The date on which this provision passed--October 26--became Austria’s National
Day. From then, Austria shaped its foreign policy on the basis of neutrality.
In recent years, however, Austria began
to reassess its definition of neutrality, granting overflight rights for the UN-sanctioned
action against Iraq in 1991, and, since 1995, contemplating participation in the
EU's evolving security structure. Also in 1995, it joined the Partnership for
Peace with NATO, and subsequently participated in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia.
Austrian leaders emphasize the unique role
the country plays both as an East-West hub and as a moderator between industrialized
and developing countries. Austria is active in the United Nations and experienced
in UN peacekeeping efforts. It attaches great importance to participation in the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other international
economic organizations, and it has played an active role in the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Austria
has participated in the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
in Afghanistan since 2002, In August 2005, Austria deployed 93 soldiers to the
northern Afghan city of Kunduz to help support the parliamentary and provincial
elections. Austria has also participated in international reconstruction assistance
efforts and has provided about 8.5 million euros since 2002 to combat drugs, to
strengthen women’s rights and for mine removal.
hosts the Secretariat of the OSCE and the headquarters of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, the UN Industrial Development Organization, and the UN Drug Control
Program. Other international organizations in Vienna include the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the International Institute for Applied Systems
Analysis, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, and the Wassenaar Arrangement
(a technology-transfer control agency).
traditionally has been active in "bridge-building to the east," increasing contacts
at all levels with eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union. Austrians
maintain a constant exchange of business representatives, political leaders, students,
cultural groups, and tourists with the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Austrian companies are active in investing and trading with those countries as
well. In addition, the Austrian Government and various Austrian organizations
provide assistance and training to support the changes underway in the region.
Austria's political leaders and people recognize and appreciate the essential
role the U.S. played in the country’s reconstruction and in the Austrian State
Treaty. It is in the interest of the U.S. to maintain and strengthen these strong
relations and to maintain Austria's political and economic stability.
Chief of Mission--Scott Kilner
Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs--Gregory
Counselor for Public Affairs--William H. Wanlund
for Commercial Affairs--Catherine Houghton
Counselor for Management Affairs--W.
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--Quintin Gray
Defense Attache--LTC Phil Thieler
U.S. Embassy in Austria
is located at Boltzmanngasse 16, Vienna 1091, tel. (43) (1) 313-39 (after office
hours: (43) (1) 319-5523). The U.S. Consular Agency in Salzburg is located at
Alte Markt 1, 5020 Salzburg, tel. (43) (662) 848-776.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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