Austria Travel Information

Photo Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies in 1945, Austria's status remained unclear for a decade. A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized Austria's independence, and forbade unification with Germany. A constitutional law of that same year declared the country's "perpetual neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. This neutrality, once ingrained as part of the Austrian cultural identity, has been called into question since the Soviet collapse of 1991 and Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995. A prosperous country, Austria entered the European Monetary Union in 1999.

PEOPLE
Austrians are a homogeneous people; 92% are native German speakers. Only two numerically significant minority groups exist--30,000 Slovenes in Carinthia (south central Austria) and about 60,000 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 78% of all Austrians are Roman Catholic. The church abstains from political activity; however, lay Catholic organizations are aligned with the conservative People's Party. The Social Democratic Party long ago shed its anticlerical stance. Small Lutheran minorities are located mainly in Vienna, Carinthia, and Burgenland.

GOVERNMNET
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. No one can become a member of the government without the approval of the president.

ECONOMY
Austria has a well-developed social market economy with a high standard of living in which the government has played an important role. Many of the country's largest firms were nationalized 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 was broken apart, state-owned firms started to operate largely as private businesses, and a great number of these firms were wholly or partially privatized. Although the government's privatization work in past years has been very successful, it still operates some firms, state monopolies, utilities, and services. The new government has presented an ambitious privatization program, which, if implemented, will considerably reduce government participation in the economy. Austria enjoys well-developed industry, banking, transportation, services, and commercial facilities.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
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." Since then, Austria shaped its foreign policy on the basis of neutrality.

Important: Travel to Austria may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Austria visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Austria
Capital city: Vienna
Area: 83,871 sq km
Population: 8,219,743
Ethnic groups: Austrians 91.1%, former Yugoslavs 4%
Languages: German
Religions: Roman Catholic 73.6%, Protestant 4.7%, Muslim 4.2%, other 3.5%, unspecified 2%, none 12%
Government: federal republic
Chief of State: President Heinz FISCHER
Head of Government: Chancellor Werner FAYMANN
GDP: 349.9 billion
GDP per captia: 41,600
Annual growth rate: 2.7%
Inflation: 3.5%
Agriculture: grains, potatoes, wine, fruit
Major industries: construction, machinery, vehicles and parts, food, metals, chemicals, lumber and wood processing, paper and paperboard, communications equipment, tourism
Natural resources: oil, coal, lignite, timber, iron ore, copper, zinc, antimony, magnesite, tungsten, graphite, salt, hydropower
Location: Central Europe, north of Italy and Slovenia
Trade Partners - exports: Germany 32.3%, Italy 7.8%, Switzerland 4.4%, France 4.2%
Trade Partners - imports: Germany 42.8%, Italy 6.8%, Switzerland 5.5%, Netherlands 4%