Europe

Austria country profile

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Austria

Famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, Austria is no longer the dominant political force it was in Central Europe under the Habsburg dynasty which ruled until the first world war.

However, its position at the geographical heart of Europe on the key Danube trade route enhances its strategic importance.

After being joined to Nazi Germany from 1938-1945, Austria was occupied by the Allies, who divided up the country and the capital Vienna into separate sectors.

However, the 1955 State Treaty - signed by the Allies - guaranteed Austria's unity, ensuring it did not suffer Germany's fate of being split between the Soviets and the Western Cold War blocs.

Vienna is nowadays home to several key international organisations, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

FACTS

Republic of Austria

Capital: Vienna

  • Population 8.4 million

  • Area 83,871 sq km (32,383 sq miles)

  • Major language German

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 84 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

Outgoing president: Heinz Fischer

Image copyright Getty Images

Heinz Fischer, a centrist politician committed to the welfare state and Austrian neutrality, was elected to the largely ceremonial presidency in April 2004 and again 2010.

  • In elections to choose his successor, the candidate of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Norbert Hofer, won the first round in April 2016. He will face an independent candidate supported by the Greens in the run-off vote in May.

Chancellor: Werner Faymann

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The ruling coalition parties which have governed Austria for much of its post-war history won enough votes in the September 2013 elections to govern again, though with a reduced majority.

The combined vote for Chancellor Werner Faymann's Social Democrats (SPO) and their conservative coalition partners, the People's Party (OVP), was just under 51%.

Mr Faymann is a former Vienna city councillor and was transport and infrastructure minister in the cabinet of his predecessor, Alfred Gusenbauer. He is seen as a pragmatist with a populist streak.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Austria's public broadcaster, Oesterreichischer Rundfunk (ORF), has long-dominated the airwaves. It faces competition from private TV and radio broadcasters.

Cable or satellite TV is available in most Austrian homes and is often used to watch German stations, some of which tailor their output for local viewers.

A daily newspaper is a must for many Austrians. National and regional titles contest fiercely for readers.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Austria's history:

1918 - End of the Hapsburg empire.

1919 - Treaty of St Germain defines Austria's boundaries.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Austrian Alps are a popular visitor destination

1920 - New constitution creates Republic of Austria.

1934 - Government crushes Socialist uprising, backed by the army. All political parties abolished except the Fatherland Front.

1936 - Austria acknowledges itself "a German state".

1938 - The Anschluss (union): Austria incorporated into Germany by Hitler. Austria now called the Ostmark (Eastern March).

1945 - Soviet troops liberate Vienna. Austria occupied by Soviet, British, US and French forces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Salzburg, birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1946-47 - Denazification laws passed. Reconstruction begins.

1955 - Treaty signed by UK, France, US and USSR establishes an independent but neutral Austria. Austria joins the United Nations.

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