Republic of Austria
Area: 83,857 sq. km. (32,377 sq. mi.); slightly
smaller than Maine.
Cities: Capital--Vienna (2003 pop. 1.6
million). Other cities--Graz, Linz,
Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt.
Terrain: Alpine (64%), northern highlands that
form part of the Bohemian Massif (10%), lowlands
to the east (26%).
Climate: Continental temperate.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Austrian(s).
Population (2003): 8,117,754.
Annual growth rate (2003): 0.41%.
Ethnic groups: Germans 98%, Croats, Slovenes;
other recognized minorities include Hungarians,
Czechs, Slovaks, and Roma.
Religions: Roman Catholic 73.6%, Lutheran 4.7%,
Muslim 4.2%, other 5.5, no confession 12.0%.
Language: German 92%.
Education: Years compulsory--9.
Health (2003): Infant mortality rate--4.2
deaths/1,000. Life expectancy--men 75.9
years, women 81.7 years.
Work force (2003, 3.9 million): Services--67%;
agriculture and forestry--4%, industry--29%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: 1920; revised 1929 (reinstated May
Branches: 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.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
Administrative subdivisions: Nine Laender
Defense (2003): 0.8% of GDP.
GDP (2004): $290 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2004): 1.9%.
Per capita income (2004): $35,820.
Natural resources: Iron ore, crude oil, natural
gas, timber, tungsten, magnesite, lignite,
Agriculture (2% of 2003 GDP): Products--livestock,
forest products, grains, sugarbeets, potatoes.
Industry (30% of 2003 GDP): Types--iron
and steel, chemicals, capital equipment,
Services: 68% of 2003 GDP.
Trade (2003): Exports--$89 billion:
iron and steel products, timber, paper,
textiles, electrotechnical machinery, chemical
products. Imports--$92 billion:
machinery, vehicles, chemicals, iron and steel,
metal goods, fuels, raw materials, foodstuffs.
Principal trade partners--European
Union, Switzerland, U.S., and Hungary.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Austrians are a homogeneous people; 92% are
native German speakers. Only two numerically
significant minority groups exist--15,000
Slovenes in Carinthia (south central Austria)
and about 17,000 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, were established
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.
Soon 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, and the Socialist
Party was outlawed. In July, a coup d'etat by
the National Socialists failed, but Nazis
assassinated Dollfuss. In March 1938, Germany
occupied Austria and incorporated it into the
German Reich. This development is commonly known
as the "Anschluss" (annexation).
At 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
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
The 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 upon elections. Its 183
members serve for a maximum 4-year term in a
three-tiered system, based on 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 62 members of the Federal
Council are elected by the legislatures of the
nine states for 5- to 6-year terms. The Federal
Council only reviews legislation passed by the
National Council and can delay but not veto its
The highest 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. Justices of
the three courts are appointed by the president
for specific terms.
The legislatures of Austria's nine Laender
(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.
Principal Government Officials
Federal President--Heinz Fischer
Federal Chancellor--Wolfgang Schuessel
Vice Chancellor--Hubert Gorbach
Foreign Minister--Ursula Plassnik
Ambassador to the United States--Eva Nowotny
Ambassador to the United Nations--Gerhard
Austria maintains an
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
Between 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. Following 2002 elections, the OVP in
February 2003 renewed its coalition with the FPO.
The 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
The 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 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
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
Some 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 scale.
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 improving the business climate, and
indications are rising that Austria's peaceful
social climate could become more
Austrian 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%.
Austria 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. Predictions are for the
economy to grow 2.2-2.3% in 2005 and 2.2-2.4% in
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.
In 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 71% 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.
Total trade with the United States in 2003
reached $8.2 billion. Imports from the United
States amounted to $3.5 billion, constituting a
U.S. market share in Austria of 3.9%. Austrian
exports to the United States in 2003 were $4.6
billion, or 5.2% 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
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).
Vienna 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
Austria 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.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Scott Kilner
Counselor for Economic and Political
Affairs--Gregory E. Phillips
Counselor for Public Affairs--William H. Wanlund
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Catherine
Counselor for Management Affairs--W. Douglas
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--Quintin Gray
Consul General--Charisse Phillips
Defense Attache--LTC Phil Thieler
Consular Agent in Salzburg--Jeanie Mayer
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)