Austria’s News in English: October 22 – 28

Welcome to the latest edition of MyExpatCommunity Austrian news feature! Here we’ll provide you with snippets of the most important Austrian news of the last couple of weeks so you can stay up to date. Also – don’t forget to share your feedback with us & subscribe to get the newsletter. Yes, just sign up right over there! —>

1. EU Commission is threatening Austria with legal procedure

After the Austrian government’s decision to measure family allowances, the EU Commission is threatening the country with an EU Treaty violation legal procedure. The indexation would make workers, whose children live abroad, receive less family allowances. From this, Austria would then adapt the allowance according to the costs of living of where the taxpayer’s children live. This would mean that those with children living in Western Europe may receive higher amounts than those with children living in Eastern Europe.

The Austrian law however is seen to be breaching the EU Treaty by violating the freedom of movement that is integral to the EU internal market. This freedom of movement guarantees no discrimination in the work force and equal treatment for all. Keep in mind, that foreign employees would still be paying the same amount of taxes but could be receiving less family allowances due to this law.

Source: Der Standard


2. Goodbye vignette? EU is discussing new tolling system

EU Parliament representatives are aiming at introducing tolls according to the number of kilometres travelled or based on the types of vehicles used. This would make the current system a thing of the past by 2025. Countries who have no tolling system will not be forced to introduce one. Countries that have one will need to adapt. Austrian representatives from ÖVP and SPÖ have announced to vote against the proposal and the FPÖ has also chimed in, suggesting that the idea is more expensive than the current system.

The automobile clubs have also spoken out against the proposal. According to the ÖAMTC, such a kilometre-based toll would only be feasible starting at 5 cent per kilometre, resulting in a commuter going from Kufstein to Innsbruck having to pay €1,700 more per year.

Source: Die Presse


3. EU bans disposable plastic

The EU Parliament has voted in favor of banning disposable plastic products. The countries now have to find a common position by the end of the year of how this can be achieved. On the banning list will be ten disposable items that often wash ashore on Europe’s beaches and make up over 70% of the waste in the oceans. These include plates, cutlery, straws, stirrers, q-tips, and sticks for balloons. They will all be banned by 2021.

Furthermore, the list will include plastic bags from materials that quickly disintegrate and do not organically decompose, thus potentially entering our food sources. Fast Food containers have also been banned.

The amount of cigarette filters that contain plastic will also be reduced by 80% by 2030. Additionally. citizens will need to collect disposable bottles separately and by 2025 the countries should recycle 90% of them on a regular basis. New bottles should be made up of 35% recycled material minimum.

Plastic pollution is currently one of the biggest problems of the global community. Scientists are saying that 1.8 trillion plastic particles are polluting the Pacific Ocean alone. There are no concrete numbers for the whole globe, but estimations are somewhere at 150 Million tons. Plus, Viennese scientists have discovered plastic in the human digestive tract for the first time this week.

Source: Die Presse / orf.at


4. Government seeing health insurance reform through

Despite criticism from health insurance experts, the Austrian government voted in favor of reforming the country’s health insurance companies (Krankenkassen). The adaptations will decrease the number of Krankenkassen from 21 to 5. Self-employed individuals and farmers will pool together in the same Krankenkasse as civil servants and railroaders. The different Gebietskrankenkassen are going to streamline their services. Self-employed and civil servants will keep additional benefit systems and deductibles.

This means there will be a power shift in the GKK committees. Until now, the majority of members were employees. Now there will be an even split between employees and employers. Law experts view the strengthening of the employer position as a breach.

Additionally, another hot topic is the extension of the supervision rights for the ministry of social affairs. These right would allow the ministry to interfere and make decisions when the committees can not reach a majority.

A lot of the criticism is directed at the costs though. The government has announced saving potentials of 1 billion Euro until 2023. The concept only sketches out 33 Million though, by the Court of Auditors. The transfer of the Audit to the Ministry of Finance has also sparked criticism, as they are not government independent to checks and balances, and may not be strict with auditing the budget.

Source: Der Standard


5. The Viennale Film Festival has started

On the 25th of October, the new Viennale director Eva Sangiorgi has opened the 56th Viennale Film Festival in Vienna. Sangiorgi took over the job earlier this year after her predecessor Hans Hurch had died unexpectedly in the summer of 2017. The festival will run until the 8th of November in several Viennese theatres. Films like Under the Silver Lake, First Man, and Roma will be shown.

The full programme and available tickets can be viewed under: https://www.viennale.at/

Source: Die Presse

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