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Austria

The Republic of Austria is a landlocked country in Central Europe, a
federation of 9 states.
Austria is bordered by Liechtenstein and Switzerland in the west, Italy and
Slovenia in the south, Hungary and Slovakia in the east, and Germany and the
Czech Republic in the north.

                                       Official language  German
                                       Capital            Vienna
                                       President          Thomas Klestil
History                                Chancellor         Wolfgang Schssel
                                       Area               Ranked 112nd
                                       - Total           83,858 km2
After being conquered by the Romans,   - % water         1.3%
Huns, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Bavarians  Population         Ranked 86th
and Franks, Austria came under the     - Total (2000)    8,150,835
rule of the Babenbergs from the 10th   - Density         97/km²
to the 13th century, which were        Independence -
succeeded by the Habsburgs. The line   Date               July 27, 1955
of this family continued to govern
Austria until the 20th century.                           Euro¹,
                                       Currency           Austrian euro
After the abolition of the Holy Roman                     coins
Empire, Austria became part of the     Time zone          UTC +1
double-monarchy Austria-Hungary in
1867. This nation was split up after   National anthem    Land der Berge,
                                                          Land am Strome
being on the losing side of World War
I, forming Austria as it is today.     Internet TLD       .AT
Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in Calling Code       43
1938 (the "Anschluss").
                                            (1) Prior to 1999: Austrian
The Allies occupied Austria at the end               schilling
of World War II until 1955, when the country again became fully independent
under the condition that it remained neutral. However, after the collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe, Austria became increasingly involved in
European affairs, and in 1995, Austria joined the European Union, and the
euro monetary system in 1999.

Politics

Head of state is the president, who is elected every 6 years by popular
vote. The president chooses the chancellor, traditionally the leader of the
largest party in the elections for parliament. The Austrian parliament
consists of two chambers, the Bundesrat (federal council), which consists of
64 representatives of the states, based on population, and the Nationalrat
(national council), which has 183 directly elected members.

After three decades of social-democratic majority (SP) a right-wing
coalition was formed in 2000, consisting of the conservative People's Party
(VP) and the right-wing Freedom Party (FP). However, after some turmoil
within the FP concerning party policy and leadership, Federal Chancellor
Wolfgang Schssel (VP) announced on September 9, 2002 that general
elections would be held prematurely at the end of November. In the elections
of November 24, 2002, the VP won a landslide victory (42.3% of the vote),
whereas the FP was reduced to a mere 10.1%.

The new Austrian parliament (Nationalrat, 183 seats) will be made up as follows:

   * 79 seats VP (Austrian People's Party) (42.3% of the vote)
   * 69 seats SP (Austrian Social Democratic Party) (36.51%)
   * 18 seats FP (Austrian Freedom Party) (10.1%)
   * 17 seats Die Grnen (Austrian Green Party) (9.47%)

On February 28, 2003, the coalition between the VP and the FP has been
continued, again with Wolfgang Schssel (VP) as Federal Chancellor. His
Vice Chancellor was Herbert Haupt (FP) until replaced by Hubert Gorbach
(FP) on October 20, 2003. Prior to that, long-lasting "probing talks"
("Sondierungsgesprche") took place between the VP and the other major
parties FP, SP and the Green Party.

States

A federal republic, Austria is divided into nine states, or Bundeslnder.
These are:

   * Burgenland
   * Carinthia
   * Lower Austria
   * Salzburg
   * Styria
   * Tyrol
   * Upper Austria
   * Vienna
   * Vorarlberg

Geography

Being situated in the Alps, Austria's west and south are mountainous making
Austria a well-known winter sports destination. The highest mountain is the
Grossglockner, at 3,798 m. The north and east of the country are mostly
rolling terrain. The climate is temperate, with cold winters and cool
summers.

The main cities are capital Vienna, situated on the Danube, Salzburg,
Innsbruck, Graz and Linz.

Economy

Austria, with its well-developed market economy and high standard of living,
is closely tied to other European Union economies, especially Germany's.
Membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by
Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to EU aspirant
economies. Slowing growth in Germany and elsewhere in the world slowed the
economy to only 1.2% growth in 2001. To meet increased competition from both
EU and Central European countries, Austria will need to emphasize
knowledge-based sectors of the economy, continue to deregulate the service
sector, and lower its tax burden.

Demographics

About ten percent of the Austrians are of non-Austrian descent, many from
surrounding countries, especially from the former East Bloc nations. Over
50,000 indigenous Slovenians live in the Austrian provinces of Carinthia and
Styria. A large group of labour immigrants is also present. The official
language, German, is spoken by everybody; the dialect is similar to that
spoken in southern Germany.

There is, however, a separate standard for Austrian German with differences
to the German spoken in Germany.

More than three-quarters of Austrians are Roman Catholic. Other important
religions are Islam and Protestantism.

Culture

Austria has been the birthplace for several famous composers such as
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss, Sr. and Johann Strauss, Jr.. Other
famous Austrians include physicists Ludwig Boltzmann and Erwin Schrdinger
as well as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and
poet Peter Rosegger (see Music of Austria).

Being situated in the Alps, Austria has been the homeland of many great
alpine skiers, such as Toni Sailer, Hermann Maier, Annemarie Moser-Prll and
Anita Wachter.

                                  Holidays
    Date      English Name          Local Name              Remarks
 January 1  New Year's Day    Neujahr                
 January 6  Epiphany          Epiphanie              Heilige Drei Knige

 Moveable   Easter Sunday     Ostersonntag           Good Friday work-free
                                                     for Protestants
 Moveable   Easter Monday     Ostermontag            
 May 1                       Staatsfeiertag         also, Labour day

 Moveable   Ascension         Christi Himmelfahrt    Thursday 40 days after
                                                     Easter
 Moveable   Pentecost         Pfingstsonntag         
 Moveable   Whit Monday       Pfingstmontag          

 Moveable   Corpus Christi    Fronleichnam           Thursday 11 days after
                                                     Pentecost

 August 15  Assumption of     Mariae Himmelfahrt     
            Mary

 October 26 National day      Nationalfeiertag       Law on neutrality
                                                     passed in 1955
 November 1 All Saints        Allerheiligen          

 December 8 Immaculate        Mariae Empfngnis      
            Conception
 December 25Christmas         Christtag, Weihnachten 
 December 26Boxing Day        Stephanitag            
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