Basic information about the territory
- System of governance and political tendencies in the country
- Foreign policy of the country
The system of governance and political tendencies in the country
The Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich) is a federal parliamentary republic. Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer is at the head of the government and Alexander Van der Bellen is the head of state. The country consists of 9 federal states, the regional and federal governments have executive power. The federal parliament consists of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat) – elected directly by the population – and the Federal Council (Bundesrat) – members are elected by the Land Assemblies of the federal states. Check computerminus to learn more about Austria political system.
In the early parliamentary elections of September 2019, which followed the scandal in Austria’s domestic political scene caused by the publication of a video recorded secretly in Ibiza in July 2017, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), led by former Federal Chancellor S. Kurz, won by a significant margin with a gain of 37.5% of votes (+6% compared to 2017), which thus returned to the Austrian political scene with a strengthened mandate. Second place was taken by the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) with 21.2% of the vote (-5.7%). The Free Party of Austria (FPÖ) took third place with 16.2% of the vote (-9.8%). The Greens returned to the National Council after two years with a gain of 13.9% of the vote (+10.1%). 75.6% of eligible voters took part in the elections. The result of the post-election negotiations was a government coalition of the ÖVP and the Greens, whose presidents are S. Kurz and W. Kogler subsequently presented a joint government program. On January 7, 2020, Federal President A. Van der Bellen appointed their first-ever federal government. The program of Chancellor S. Kurz’s government aimed to keep election promises: lowering income taxes and a strict line against illegal migration, incl. rejection of refugee quotas and an emphasis on the protection of the EU’s external border. The Greens, on the other hand, were given the opportunity within the government to implement an ambitious climate protection program with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality as early as 2040 and obtaining electricity only from renewable sources in 2030. In addition to the pro-European stance, the two parties were united by their opposition to nuclear energy. On the contrary, migration remained a problematic point, in which the Greens are increasingly questioning the strict People’s course.
At the height of the government crisis, the chancellor resigned on 9 October 2021 and retired from politics altogether. Kurz’s political end was brought about by accusations of embezzlement and aiding and abetting bribery in 2016. Kurz’s resignation was forced by the threat of the Greens leaving the coalition and with it the risk of early elections. Alexander Schallenberg, the current minister for European and foreign affairs, became chancellor, to be replaced at the beginning of December by the newly elected chairman of the ÖVP and the current minister of the interior, Karla Nehammer. Schallenberg thus returned to the head of the Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs.
At the beginning of May 2022 and a few days before the congress of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), which is expected to confirm Karel Nehammer as party chairman next Saturday, two People’s Ministers, Minister of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism E. Köstinger and Minister of Economy and Digitalization M. Schramböck, resigned. In both cases, these were female politicians closely linked to the former chancellor of the People’s Party leader S. Kurz.
The current composition of the government can be found on the website of the Federal Chancellery: www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/bundeskanzleramt/die-bundesregierung/bundesministerinnen-und-bundesminister.html.
Foreign policy of the country
The main accents of Austrian foreign policy are: the EU, good relations with neighbors, the Western Balkans, the Middle East, development cooperation and active participation in multilateral diplomacy. Check relationshipsplus for Austria defense and foreign policy.
Russia, the USA and China are also in the focus of Austrian foreign policy outside of Europe. Long-term, above-standard relations with Russia (including energy) deteriorated after a cyber attack against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria at the turn of 2019 and 2020, which, according to information, was to be led by Russia for weeks. On August 25-26, 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Austria on his European tour (Hungary, Austria, Italy). Relations with Russia deteriorated after Russia attacked Ukraine. The top representatives of Austrian political life (federal president, federal chancellor, foreign minister) sharply condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine, expressed solidarity with the country and its inhabitants, and called for a tough European response. The former Austrian leniency towards Russia is gone – the only one that deviates on the political stage, is the voice of the opposition Free People (FPÖ). The country’s excessive dependence on Russian energy supplies continues to be a topic.
Relations with the USA showed intensity in the second half of President D. Trump’s mandate, the above-standard level of which was most recently confirmed by the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs M. Pompeo to Austria in August 2020. Sensitive topics of mutual relations include 5G networks, relations with China and the digital tax.
Also, relations with China (especially economic) are developing along all lines. Austria is not involved in the Silk Road (BRI) or the format of Central and Eastern European countries + China, or “17+1”. The deterioration of mutual political relations is associated with Austrian support for the UN resolution to persecute the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China, but also with the Austrian-American rapprochement or the absence of “pro-Chinese” Liberals in the federal government. It is also pointed out by the declining trend of Chinese investments in the Austrian economy.
Austria has been a member of the EU since 1 January 1995, and a member of the European Economic and Monetary Union since 1 January 1999. Thanks to its geographical location, Austria also benefited to a significant extent from the enlargement of the EU to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The starting point of Austrian security policy is neutrality enshrined in the constitution. The topics of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of WMD are the subject of Austrian interest. In the area of security policy, Austria actively cooperates within the international organizations of which it is a member, i.e. the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and in relation to NATO through the Partnership for Peace program, which Austria joined on February 10, 1995. Austria is the largest non-aligned contributor to KFOR units. He also plays an active role within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), whose Permanent Council he chaired in 2017.
In foreign policy, Austria practices multilateralism. In addition to disarmament and non-proliferation, the government supports their complete ban. Austria is interested in keeping Vienna as one of the seats of the United Nations. The IAAE (International Atomic Energy Agency), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), UNODC (United Nations Drug Control and Crime Prevention Programme), UN Office for Outer Space and regional offices are located in Vienna other organizations (UNHCR, UNDP). Vienna is also home to the OSCE Secretariat, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), as well as the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), of the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) or the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The regional office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also located in Vienna.
As of April 1, 2022, 9.03 million inhabitants were registered in Austria. The total number of inhabitants increased during the first quarter of 2022 mainly thanks to Ukrainian refugees and thus exceeded the 9 million mark for the first time. Austria has an average population density of 10 inhabitants per 1 km² (2021). Due to population growth in recent years, population density has been steadily increasing and reached a new high this year. The sustained growth, mainly due to immigration, is part of a fundamental change in the Austrian population structure and is forecast to continue. The average life expectancy in 2020 was 8years for women and 78.9 years for men. The population is aging, the number and share of children and adolescents (under 20) has decreased in many regions, while the number of economically inactive people (over 65) has increased significantly. The birth balance was negative in 2020, i.e. more people died, before it was born. The average number of children per woman reached 1.44 in 2020.
Citizens of foreign nationality make up 18.2% of the population (1.64 million people). In this group, Germans (217 thousand), Romanians (138 thousand), Serbians (122 thousand) and Turks (118 thousand) occupy the largest share. They are followed by persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina (97 thousand), Croats (95 thousand), Hungarians (94 thousand), Syrians (68 thousand), Poles (66 thousand), Ukrainians (53 thousand), Slovaks (47 thousand) and Afghans (45 thousand). 15 thousand Czechs live in Austria. However, the Czech minority is many times larger, the number of people whose historical roots go back to the Czech lands and Slovakia is estimated at almost one million. About 580 thousand Austrians live abroad, of which approx. 257,000 in Germany. The legal status of minorities is regulated by a law from 1976 (Volksgruppengesetz).
The Austrian population census does not take religion into account, the following overview is based on the statista.de database (2022). According to surveys, 63% of people describe themselves as religious, 29% as non-believers and 4% as atheists. The Catholic Church had approximately million members at the end of 2021, followed by Orthodox Christians (775,000, 2018), Muslims (700,000, 2016) and Evangelicals (272,000, 2021).