The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty, when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. From the time of the Reformation, many northern German princes, resenting the authority of the Emperor, used Protestantism as a flag of rebellion. The Thirty Years War, the influence of the Kingdom of Sweden and Kingdom of France, the rise of the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Napoleonic invasions all weakened the power of the Emperor in the north of Germany, but in the south, and in non-German areas of the Empire, the Emperor and Catholicism maintained control. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria retained its position as one of the great powers of Europe and, in response to the coronation of Napoleon as the Emperor of the French, the Austrian Empire was officially proclaimed in 1804. Following Napoleon's defeat, Prussia emerged as Austria's chief competitor for rule of a Greater Germany. Austria's defeat by Prussia at the Battle of Königgrätz, during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, cleared the way for Prussia to assert control over the rest of Germany. In 1867, the empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary. After the defeat of France in the 1870-1 Franco-Prussian War, Austria was excluded from the new German Empire, although in the following decades, its politics, and its foreign policy, increasingly converged with those of the Prussian-led Empire. During the 1914 July Crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, Austria-Hungary, emboldened by a pledge of German support, on July 28 declared war on Serbia because that country had not fully complied with an Austrian ultimatum. Austria was thus the first to go to war in the July Crisis, which would ultimately escalate into World War I.
After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I, Austria adopted and used the name the Republic of German-Austria, in an attempt at union with Germany, but this was forbidden under the treaties the Treaty of Versailles and Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The name was changed to Austria and shortly afterwards The First Austrian Republic was established in 1919. In 1938 Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss. This lasted until the end of World War II in 1945, after which Germany was occupied by the Allies and Austria's former democratic constitution was restored. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the occupation. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament created the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral.
Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states. The capital and largest city, with a population exceeding 1.8 million, is Vienna. Other major urban areas of Austria include Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck. Austria is consistently ranked as one of the richest countries in the world by per capita GDP terms. The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2014 was ranked 21st in the world for its Human Development Index. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, joined the European Union in 1995, and is a founder of the OECD. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, and adopted the euro currency in 1999.
The German name for Austria, Österreich, meant "eastern realm" in Old High German, and is cognate with the word Ostarrîchi, which first appears in the "Ostarrîchi document" of 996. This word is probably a translation of Medieval Latin Marchia orientalis into a local (Bavarian) dialect. Austria was a prefecture of Bavaria created in 976. The word "Austria" is a Latinisation of the German name and was first recorded in the 12th century. At the time, the Danube basin of Austria (Upper and Lower Austria) was the easternmost extent of Bavaria, and in fact of all the Germans, as at the time the territory of the former East Germany was populated by Slavic Sorbs and Polabians.
Friedrich Heer, a 20th-century Austrian historian, stated in his book Der Kampf um die österreichische Identität (The Struggle Over Austrian Identity), that the Germanic form Ostarrîchi was not a translation of the Latin word, but both resulted from a much older term originating in the Celtic languages of ancient Austria: more than 2,500 years ago, the major part of the actual country was called Norig by the Celtic population (Hallstatt culture); according to Heer, no- or nor- meant "east" or "easterns", whereas -rig is related to the modern German Reich, meaning "realm". Accordingly, Norig would essentially mean the same as Ostarrîchi and Österreich, thus Austria. The Celtic name was eventually Latinised to Noricum after the Romans conquered the area that encloses most of modern-day Austria, around 15 BC. Noricum later became a Roman province in the mid-first century AD. Heer's hypothesis is not accepted by linguists.
Settled in ancient times, the Central European land that is now Austria was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. Present-day Petronell-Carnuntum in eastern Austria was an important army camp turned capital city in what became known as the Upper Pannonia province. Carnuntum was home for 50,000 people for nearly 400 years.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, conquered the area in AD 788, encouraged colonization, and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.
The first record showing the name Austria is from 996, where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March. In 1156, the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs was extinguished.
As a result, Ottokar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolph I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of the Duchy of Austria. In 1438, Duke Albert V of Austria was chosen as the successor to his father-in-law, Emperor Sigismund. Although Albert himself only reigned for a year, henceforth every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was a Habsburg, with only one exception.
The Habsburgs began also to accumulate territory far from the hereditary lands. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian, only son of Emperor Frederick III, married the heiress Maria of Burgundy, thus acquiring most of the Netherlands for the family. His son Philip the Fair married Joanna the Mad, the heiress of Castile and Aragon, thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African, and New World appendages for the Habsburgs.
In 1526, following the Battle of Mohács, Bohemia and the part of Hungary not occupied by the Ottomans came under Austrian rule. Ottoman expansion into Hungary led to frequent conflicts between the two empires, particularly evident in the Long War of 1593 to 1606. The Turks made incursions into Styria nearly 20 times, of which some are cited as "burning, pillaging, and taking thousands of slaves".
During the long reign of Leopold I (1657–1705) and following the successful defence of Vienna in 1683 (under the command of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski), a series of campaigns resulted in bringing most of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.
Emperor Charles VI relinquished many of the gains the empire made in the previous years, largely due to his apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg. Charles was willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. With the rise of Prussia, the Austrian–Prussian dualism began in Germany. Austria participated, together with Prussia and Russia, in the first and the third of the three Partitions of Poland (in 1772 and 1795).
Austria later became engaged in a war with Revolutionary France, at the beginning highly unsuccessfully, with successive defeats at the hands of Napoleon, meaning the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Two years earlier, the Empire of Austria was founded. In 1814, Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic Wars.
It emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of the continent's four dominant powers and a recognised great power. The same year, the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) was founded under the presidency of Austria. Because of unsolved social, political, and national conflicts, the German lands were shaken by the 1848 revolution aiming to create a unified Germany.
The various different possibilities for a united Germany were: a Greater Germany, or a Greater Austria or just the German Confederation without Austria at all. As Austria was not willing to relinquish its German-speaking territories to what would become the German Empire of 1848, the crown of the newly formed empire was offered to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In 1864, Austria and Prussia fought together against Denmark and secured the independence from Denmark of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. As they could not agree on how the two duchies should be administered, though, they fought the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Defeated by Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz, Austria had to leave the German Confederation and subsequently no longer took part in German politics.
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Ausgleich, provided for a dual sovereignty, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I. The Austrian-Hungarian rule of this diverse empire included various Slavic groups, including Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Ukrainians, as well as large Italian and Romanian communities.
As a result, ruling Austria–Hungary became increasingly difficult in an age of emerging nationalist movements, requiring considerable reliance on an expanded secret police. Yet, the government of Austria tried its best to be accommodating in some respects: The Reichsgesetzblatt, publishing the laws and ordinances of Cisleithania, was issued in eight languages; all national groups were entitled to schools in their own language and to the use of their mother tongue at state offices, for example.
Many Austrians of all different social circles such as Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Karl Lueger promoted strong pan-Germanism in hope of reinforcing an ethnic German identity and the annexation of Austria to Germany. Although Bismarck's policies excluded Austria and the German Austrians from Germany, many Austrian pan-Germans idolized him and wore blue cornflowers, known to be the favourite flower of German Emperor William I, in their buttonholes, along with cockades in the German national colours (black, red, and yellow), although they were both temporarily banned in Austrian schools, as a way to show discontent towards the multi-ethnic empire.
A lot of Austrian pan-German nationalists protested passionately against minister-president Kasimir Count Badeni's language decree of 1897, which made German and Czech co-official languages in Bohemia and required new government officials to be fluent in both languages. This meant in practice that the civil service would almost exclusively hire Czechs, because most middle-class Czechs spoke the German language, but not the other way around. The support of ultramontane Catholic politicians and clergy for this reform triggered the launch of the "Away from Rome" (German: Los-von-Rom) movement, which was initiated by supporters of Schönerer and called on "German" Christians to leave the Roman Catholic Church.
As the Second Constitutional Era began in the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary took the opportunity to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip was used by leading Austrian politicians and generals to persuade the emperor to declare war on Serbia, thereby risking and prompting the outbreak of World War I, but it was not the only cause of the war. which eventually led to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Over one million Austro-Hungarian soldiers died in World War I.
On 21 October 1918, the elected German members of the Reichsrat (parliament of Imperial Austria) met in Vienna as the Provisional National Assembly for German Austria (Provisorische Nationalversammlung für Deutschösterreich). On 30 October the assembly founded the State of German Austria by appointing a government, called Staatsrat. This new government was invited by the Emperor to take part in the decision on the planned armistice with Italy, but refrained from this business.
This left the responsibility for the end of the war, on 3 November 1918, solely to the emperor and his government. On 11 November, the emperor, advised by ministers of the old and the new governments, declared he would not take part in state business any more; on 12 November, German Austria, by law, declared itself to be a democratic republic and part of the new German republic. The constitution, renaming the Staatsrat as Bundesregierung (federal government) and Nationalversammlung as Nationalrat (national council) was passed on 10 November 1920.
The Treaty of Saint-Germain of 1919 (for Hungary the Treaty of Trianon of 1920) confirmed and consolidated the new order of Central Europe which to a great extent had been established in November 1918, creating new states and altering others. The German-speaking parts of Austria which had been part of Austria-Hungary were reduced to a rump state named The Republic of German-Austria (German: Republik Deutschösterreich). The desire for Anschluss (annexation of Austria to Germany) was a popular opinion shared by all social circles in both Austria and Germany. On November 12, German-Austria was declared a republic, and named Social Democrat Karl Renner as provisional chancellor. On the same day it drafted a provisional constitution that stated that "German-Austria is a democratic republic" (Article 1) and "German-Austria is an integral part of the German reich" (Article 2). The Treaty of Saint Germain and the Treaty of Versailles explicitly forbid union between Austria and Germany. The treaties also forced German-Austria to rename itself as "Republic of Austria" which consequently led to the first Austrian Republic.
Over 3 million German-speaking Austrians found themselves living outside the new Austrian Republic as minorities in the newly formed or enlarged states of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Italy. These included the provinces of South Tyrol (which became part of Italy) and German Bohemia (Czechoslovakia). The status of German Bohemia (Sudetenland) later played a role in sparking the Second World War.
The status of South Tyrol was a lingering problem between Austria and Italy until it was officially settled by the 1980s with a great degree of autonomy being granted to it by the Italian national government. Between 1918 and 1919, Austria was known as the State of German Austria (Staat Deutschösterreich). Not only did the Entente powers forbid German Austria to unite with Germany, but they also rejected the name German Austria in the peace treaty to be signed; it was, therefore, changed to Republic of Austria in late 1919.
The border between Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) was settled with the Carinthian Plebiscite in October 1920 and allocated the major part of the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Crownland of Carinthia to Austria. This set the border on the Karawanken mountain range, with many Slovenes remaining in Austria.
After the war, inflation began to devalue the Krone, which was still Austria's currency. In autumn 1922, Austria was granted an international loan supervised by the League of Nations. The purpose of the loan was to avert bankruptcy, stabilise the currency, and improve Austria's general economic condition. The loan meant that Austria passed from an independent state to the control exercised by the League of Nations. In 1925, the Schilling was introduced, replacing the Krone at a rate of 10,000:1. Later, it was nicknamed the "Alpine dollar" due to its stability. From 1925 to 1929, the economy enjoyed a short high before nearly crashing after Black Tuesday.
The First Austrian Republic lasted until 1933, when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, using what he called "self-switch-off of Parliament", established an autocratic regime tending towards Italian fascism. The two big parties at this time, the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, had paramilitary armies; the Social Democrats' Schutzbund was now declared illegal, but was still operative as civil war broke out.
In February 1934, several members of the Schutzbund were executed, the Social Democratic party was outlawed, and many of its members were imprisoned or emigrated. On 1 May 1934, the Austrofascists imposed a new constitution ("Maiverfassung") which cemented Dollfuss's power, but on 25 July he was assassinated in a Nazi coup attempt.
His successor Kurt Schuschnigg acknowledged Austria as a "German state" and that Austrians were "better Germans" but wished for Austria to remain independent. He announced a referendum on 9 March 1938, to be held on 13 March, concerning Austria's independence from Germany. On 12 March 1938, Austrian Nazis took over government, while German troops occupied the country, which prevented Schuschnigg's referendum from taking place. On 13 March 1938, the Anschluss of Austria was officially declared. Two days later, Austrian-born Hitler announced what he called the "reunification" of his home country with the "rest of the German Reich" on Vienna's Heldenplatz. He established a plebiscite confirming the union with Germany in April 1938.
Parliamentary elections were held in Germany (including recently annexed Austria) on 10 April 1938. They were the final elections to the Reichstag during Nazi rule, and took the form of a single-question referendum asking whether voters approved of a single Nazi-party list for the 813-member Reichstag, as well as the recent annexation of Austria (the Anschluss). Turnout in the election was officially 99.5%, with 98.9% voting "yes". In the case of Austria, Adolf Hitler's native soil, 99.71% of an electorate of 4,484,475 officially went to the ballots, with a positive tally of 99.73%. Although most Austrians favoured the Anschluss, in certain parts of Austria the German soldiers were not always welcomed with flowers and joy, especially in Vienna which had Austria's largest Jewish population. Nevertheless, despite the propaganda and the manipulation and rigging which surrounded the ballot box result, there was massive genuine support for Hitler for fulfilling the Anschluss, since many Germans from both Austria and Germany saw it as completing the long overdue German unification of all Germans united into one-state.
On 12 March, Austria was annexed to the Third Reich and ceased to exist as an independent country. The Aryanisation of the wealth of Jewish Austrians started immediately in mid-March, with a so-called "wild" (i.e. extra-legal) phase, but was soon structured legally and bureaucratically to strip Jewish citizens of any assets they possessed. The Nazis called Austria "Ostmark" until 1942, when it was again renamed and called "Alpen-Donau-Reichsgaue".
Though Austrians made up only 8% of the population of the Third Reich, some of the most prominent Nazis were native Austrians, including Adolf Hitler, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Franz Stangl, and Odilo Globocnik, as were over 13% of the SS and 40% of the staff at the Nazi extermination camps. Vienna fell on 13 April 1945, during the Soviet Vienna Offensive, just before the total collapse of the Third Reich. The invading Allied powers, in particular the Americans, planned for the supposed "Alpine Fortress Operation" of a national redoubt, that was largely to have taken place on Austrian soil in the mountains of the eastern Alps. However, it never materialised because of the rapid collapse of the Reich.
Karl Renner and Adolf Schärf (Socialist Party of Austria [Social Democrats and Revolutionary Socialists]), Leopold Kunschak (Austria's People's Party [former Christian Social People's Party]), and Johann Koplenig (Communist Party of Austria) declared Austria's secession from the Third Reich by the Declaration of Independence on 27 April 1945 and set up a provisional government in Vienna under state Chancellor Renner the same day, with the approval of the victorious Red Army and backed by Joseph Stalin. (The date is officially named the birthday of the second republic.) At the end of April, most of western and southern Austria were still under Nazi rule. On 1 May 1945, the federal constitution of 1929, which had been terminated by dictator Dollfuss on 1 May 1934, was declared valid again.
Total military deaths from 1939 to 1945 are estimated at 260,000. Jewish Holocaust victims totalled 65,000. About 140,000 Jewish Austrians had fled the country in 1938–39. Thousands of Austrians had taken part in serious Nazi crimes (hundreds of thousands died in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp alone), a fact officially recognised by Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in 1992.
Much like Germany, Austria was divided into American, British, French, and Soviet zones and governed by the Allied Commission for Austria. As forecast in the Moscow Declaration in 1943, a subtle difference was seen in the treatment of Austria by the Allies. The Austrian government, consisting of Social Democrats, Conservatives, and Communists (until 1947), and residing in Vienna, which was surrounded by the Soviet zone, was recognised by the Western Allies in October 1945 after some doubts that Renner could be Stalin's puppet. Thus, the creation of a separate Western Austrian government and the division of the country was avoidable. Austria, in general, was treated as though it had been originally invaded by Germany and liberated by the Allies.
On 15 May 1955, after talks which lasted for years and were influenced by the Cold War, Austria regained full independence by concluding the Austrian State Treaty with the Four Occupying Powers. On 26 October 1955, after all occupation troops had left, Austria declared its "permanent neutrality" by an act of parliament.
The political system of the Second Republic is based on the constitution of 1920 and 1929, which was reintroduced in 1945. The system came to be characterised by Proporz, meaning that most posts of political importance were split evenly between members of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). Interest group "chambers" with mandatory membership (e.g. for workers, business people, farmers) grew to considerable importance and were usually consulted in the legislative process, so hardly any legislation was passed that did not reflect widespread consensus.
Since 1945, governing via a single-party government has occurred twice: 1966–1970 (ÖVP) and 1970–1983 (SPÖ). During all other legislative periods, either a grand coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP or a "small coalition" (one of these two and a smaller party) ruled the country.
Kurt Waldheim, an SA officer in the Second World War accused of war crimes, was elected President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.
Following a referendum in 1994, at which consent reached a majority of two-thirds, the country became a member of the European Union on 1 January 1995.
The major parties SPÖ and ÖVP have contrary opinions about the future status of Austria's military nonalignment: While the SPÖ in public supports a neutral role, the ÖVP argues for stronger integration into the EU's security policy; even a future NATO membership is not ruled out by some ÖVP politicians (ex. Dr Werner Fasslabend (OVP) in 1997). In reality, Austria is taking part in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, participates in peacekeeping and peace creating tasks, and has become a member of NATO's "Partnership for Peace"; the constitution has been amended accordingly. Since Liechtenstein joined the Schengen Area in 2011, none of Austria's neighbouring countries performs border controls towards it anymore.
The Parliament of Austria is located in Vienna, the country's largest city and capital. Austria became a federal, representative democratic republic through the Federal Constitution of 1920. The political system of the Second Republic with its nine states is based on the constitution of 1920, amended in 1929, which was reenacted on 1 May 1945.
The head of state is the Federal President (Bundespräsident), who is directly elected by popular vote. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the President. The government can be removed from office by either a presidential decree or by vote of no confidence in the lower chamber of parliament, the Nationalrat. Voting for the Federal President and for the Parliament used to be compulsory in Austria, but this was abolished in steps from 1982 to 2004.
The Parliament of Austria consists of two chambers. The composition of the Nationalrat (183 seats) is determined every five years (or whenever the Nationalrat has been dissolved by the federal president on a motion by the federal chancellor, or by Nationalrat itself) by a general election in which every citizen over 16 years (since 2007) has voting rights. While there is a general threshold of 4% for all parties at federal elections (Nationalratswahlen), there remains the possibility to gain a direct seat, or Direktmandat, in one of the 43 regional election districts.
The Nationalrat is the dominant chamber in the formation of legislation in Austria. However, the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has a limited right of veto (the Nationalrat can—in almost all cases—ultimately pass the respective bill by voting a second time. This is referred to as 'Beharrungsbeschluss, lit. "vote of persistence"). A convention, called the Österreich -Konvent was convened on 30 June 2003 to decide upon suggestions to reform the constitution, but failed to produce a proposal that would receive the two-thirds of votes in the Nationalrat necessary for constitutional amendments and/or reform.
With legislative and executive, the courts are the third column of Austrian state powers. Notably the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof) may exert considerable influence on the political system by ruling out laws and ordinances not in compliance with the constitution. Since 1995, the European Court of Justice may overrule Austrian decisions in all matters defined in laws of the European Union. Austria also implements the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, since the European Convention on Human Rights is part of the Austrian constitution.
After general elections held in October 2006, the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) emerged as the strongest party, and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) came in second, having lost about 8% of its previous polling. Political realities prohibited any of the two major parties from forming a coalition with smaller parties. In January 2007 the People's Party and SPÖ formed a grand coalition with the social democrat Alfred Gusenbauer as Chancellor. This coalition broke up in June 2008.
Elections in September 2008 further weakened both major parties (SPÖ and ÖVP) but together they still held 70% of the votes, with the Social Democrats holding slightly more than the other party. They formed a coalition with Werner Faymann from the Social Democrats as Chancellor. The Green Party came in third with 11% of the vote. The FPÖ and the deceased Jörg Haider's new party Alliance for the Future of Austria, both on the political right, were strengthened during the election but taken together received less than 20% of the vote.
In the legislative elections of 2013, the Social Democratic Party received 27% of the vote and 52 seats; People's Party 24% and 47 seats, thus controlling together the majority of the seats. The Freedom Party received 40 seats and 21% of the votes, while the Greens received 12% and 24 seats. Two new parties, Stronach and the NEOS, received less than 10% of the vote, and 11 and nine seats respectively.
The 1955 Austrian State Treaty ended the occupation of Austria following World War II and recognised Austria as an independent and sovereign state. On 26 October 1955, the Federal Assembly passed a constitutional article 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 has shaped its foreign policy on the basis of neutrality, but rather different from the neutrality of Switzerland.
Austria began to reassess its definition of neutrality following the fall of the Soviet Union, granting overflight rights for the UN-sanctioned action against Iraq in 1991, and since 1995, it has developed participation in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Also in 1995, it joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and subsequently participated in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the only part of the Constitutional Law on Neutrality of 1955 still fully valid is not to allow foreign military bases in Austria.
Austria attaches great importance to participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international economic organisations, and it has played an active role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As an OSCE-participating State, Austria's international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
The manpower of the Austrian Armed Forces (German: Bundesheer) mainly relies on conscription. All males who have reached the age of eighteen and are found fit have to serve a six months compulsory military service, followed by an eight-year reserve obligation. Both males and females at the age of sixteen are eligible for voluntary service. Conscientious objection is legally acceptable and those who claim this right are obliged to serve an institutionalised nine months civilian service instead. Since 1998, women volunteers have been allowed to become professional soldiers.
The main sectors of the Bundesheer are Joint Forces (Streitkräfteführungskommando, SKFüKdo) which consist of Land Forces (Landstreitkräfte), Air Forces (Luftstreitkräfte), International Missions (Internationale Einsätze) and Special Forces (Spezialeinsatzkräfte), next to Joint Mission Support Command (Kommando Einsatzunterstützung; KdoEU) and Joint Command Support Centre (Führungsunterstützungszentrum; FüUZ). Austria is a landlocked country and has no navy.
In 2012, Austria's defence expenditures corresponded to approximately 0.8% of its GDP. The Army currently has about 26,000 soldiers, of whom about 12,000 are conscripts. As head of state, Austrian President is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Bundesheer. Command of the Austrian Armed Forces is exercised by the Minister of Defence, currently Hans Peter Doskozil.
Since the end of the Cold War, and more importantly the removal of the former heavily guarded "Iron Curtain" separating Austria and its Eastern Bloc neighbours (Hungary and former Czechoslovakia), the Austrian military has been assisting Austrian border guards in trying to prevent border crossings by illegal immigrants. This assistance came to an end when Hungary and Slovakia joined the EU Schengen Area in 2008, for all intents and purposes abolishing "internal" border controls between treaty states. Some politicians have called for a prolongation of this mission, but the legality of this is heavily disputed. In accordance with the Austrian constitution, armed forces may only be deployed in a limited number of cases, mainly to defend the country and aid in cases of national emergency, such as in the wake of natural disasters. They may generally not be used as auxiliary police forces.
Within its self-declared status of permanent neutrality, Austria has a long and proud tradition of engaging in UN-led peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions. The Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU), in particular, an all-volunteer unit with close ties to civilian specialists (e.g. rescue dog handlers) enjoys a reputation as a quick (standard deployment time is 10 hours) and efficient SAR unit. Currently, larger contingents of Austrian forces are deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo.
As a federal republic, Austria is divided into nine states (German: Bundesländer). These states are then divided into districts (Bezirke) and statutory cities (Statutarstädte). Districts are subdivided into municipalities (Gemeinden). Statutory Cities have the competencies otherwise granted to both districts and municipalities. The states are not mere administrative divisions but have some legislative authority distinct from the federal government, e.g. in matters of culture, social care, youth and nature protection, hunting, building, and zoning ordinances. In recent years, it has been discussed whether today it is appropriate for a small country to maintain ten parliaments.
Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps. The Central Eastern Alps, Northern Limestone Alps and Southern Limestone Alps are all partly in Austria. Of the total area of Austria (84,000 km2 or 32,433 sq mi), only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft). The Alps of western Austria give way somewhat into low lands and plains in the eastern part of the country.
Austria lies between latitudes 46° and 49° N, and longitudes 9° and 18° E.
It can be divided into five areas, the biggest being the Eastern Alps, which constitute 62% of the nation's total area. The Austrian foothills at the base of the Alps and the Carpathians account for around 12% and the foothills in the east and areas surrounding the periphery of the Pannoni low country amount to about 12% of the total landmass. The second greater mountain area (much lower than the Alps) is situated in the north. Known as the Austrian granite plateau, it is located in the central area of the Bohemian Mass and accounts for 10% of Austria. The Austrian portion of the Vienna basin comprises the remaining 4%.
Phytogeographically, Austria belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Austria can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests, Pannonian mixed forests, Alps conifer and mixed forests and Western European broadleaf forests.
The greater part of Austria lies in the cool/temperate climate zone, where humid westerly winds predominate. With nearly three-quarters of the country dominated by the Alps, the alpine climate is predominant. In the east—in the Pannonian Plain and along the Danube valley—the climate shows continental features with less rain than the alpine areas. Although Austria is cold in the winter (−10 to 0 °C), summer temperatures can be relatively high, with average temperatures in the mid-20s and a highest temperature of 40.5 °C (105 °F) in August 2013.
According to the Koppen Climate Classification Austria has the following climate types: Oceanic (Cfb), Cool/Warm-summer humid continental (Dfb), Subarctic/Subalpine (Dfc), Tundra/Alpine (ET) and Ice-Cap (EF). Its important to note though that Austria in general does not get very cold in winter but rather cool in summer at higher altitudes. The subarctic and tundra climates seen around the Alps are much warmer in winter than what is normal elsewhere due in part to the Oceanic influence on this part of Europe.
Austria is the 12th richest country in the world in terms of GDP (Gross domestic product) per capita, has a well-developed social market economy, and a high standard of living. Until the 1980s, many of Austria's largest industry firms were nationalised; in recent years, however, privatisation has reduced state holdings to a level comparable to other European economies. Labour movements are particularly strong in Austria and have large influence on labour politics. Next to a highly developed industry, international tourism is the most important part of the national economy.
Germany has historically been the main trading partner of Austria, making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. Since Austria became a member state of the European Union, it has gained closer ties to other EU economies, reducing its economic dependence on Germany. In addition, membership of the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to the aspiring economies of the European Union. Growth in GDP reached 3.3% in 2006. At least 67% of Austria's imports come from other European Union member states.
Austria indicated on 16 November 2010 that it would withhold the December installment of its contribution to the EU bailout of Greece, citing the material worsening of the Greek debt situation and the apparent inability of Greece to collect the level of tax receipts it had previously promised.
The Financial crisis of 2007–2008 dented the economy of Austria in other ways as well. It caused, for example, the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International to be purchased in December 2009 by the government for 1 euro owing to credit difficulties, thus wiping out the euro 1.63bn of BayernLB. As of February 2014, the HGAA situation was unresolved, causing Chancellor Werner Faymann to warn that its failure would be comparable to the 1931 Creditanstalt event.
Since the fall of communism, Austrian companies have been quite active players and consolidators in Eastern Europe. Between 1995 and 2010, 4,868 mergers and acquisitions with a total known value of 163 bil. EUR with the involvement of Austrian firms have been announced. The largest transactions with involvement of Austrian companies have been: the acquisition of Bank Austria by Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank for 7.8 billion EUR in 2000, the acquisition of Porsche Holding Salzburg by Volkswagen Group for 3.6 billion EUR in 2009, and the acquisition of Banca Comercială Română by Erste Group for 3.7 bil. EUR in 2005.
Tourism accounts for almost 9% of the Austrian gross domestic product. In 2007, Austria ranked 9th worldwide in international tourism receipts, with 18.9 billion US$. In international tourist arrivals, Austria ranked 12th with 20.8 million tourists.
In 1972, the country began construction of a nuclear-powered electricity-generation station at Zwentendorf on the River Danube, following a unanimous vote in parliament. However, in 1978, a referendum voted approximately 50.5% against nuclear power, 49.5% for, and parliament subsequently unanimously passed a law forbidding the use of nuclear power to generate electricity although the nuclear power plant was already finished.
Austria currently produces more than half of its electricity by hydropower. Together with other renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass powerplants, the electricity supply from renewable energy amounts to 62.89% of total use in Austria, with the rest being produced by gas and oil power plants.
Austria's population was estimated to be 8.72 million in April 2016 by the Statistik Austria. The population of the capital, Vienna, exceeds 1.8 million (2.6 million, including the suburbs), representing about a quarter of the country's population. It is known for its cultural offerings and high standard of living.
Vienna is by far the country's largest city. Graz is second in size, with 265,778 inhabitants, followed by Linz (191,501), Salzburg (145,871), and Innsbruck (122,458). All other cities have fewer than 100,000 inhabitants.
According to Eurostat, in 2010 there were 1.27 million foreign-born residents in Austria, corresponding to 15.2% of the total population. Of these, 764,000 (9.1%) were born outside the EU and 512,000 (6.1%) were born in another EU Member State.
Statistik Austria estimated in 2011 that 81% or 6.75 million residents had no migration background and more than 19% or 1.6 million inhabitants had at least one or more parents of migration background. There are more than 415,000 descendants of foreign-born immigrants residing in Austria, the great majority of whom have been naturalised.
185,592 Turks (including a minority of Turkish Kurds) make up the second biggest single ethnic minority in Austria after Germans (2.5%), representing 2.2% of the total population. 13,000 Turks were naturalised in 2003 and an unknown number have arrived in Austria at the same time. While 2,000 Turks left Austria in the same year, 10,000 immigrated to the country, confirming a strong trend of growth. Together, Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks and Slovenes make up about 5.1% of Austria's total population.
The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2013 was estimated at 1.42 children born per woman, which is lower than the replacement rate of 2.1. In 2015, 42.1% of births were to unmarried women. The life expectancy in 2016 was estimated at 81.5 years (78.9 years male, 84.3 years female).
Foreign-born population – top 15 countries: