An introduction guide to Austria. Learn more about its politics, history, and immigration.
Politics and Economy
Austria generally excels in democratic protections of political freedoms and civil liberties. Citizens elect a president who then appoints a chancellor. The country is frequently governed by a grand coalition between the center left and center right parties, but in recent years has faced growing pressuring from a far right, populist party. The country’s political structure is based on the 1920 constitution which established a federal republic with nine states.
Austria has a highly industrialized economy and performs well for its size. Its main trading partners are fellow European Union members and the United States. While tourism plays an important role, it also exports machinery, metals, and vehicles. The country is home to a wealth of natural resources, which have been critical for the development of renewable energy production.
Turkey and post-soviet states account for the largest sources of immigrants in Austria. In comparison to other European Union members, Austria has a high proportion of foreign-born citizens. In particular, ethnic Turks account for the largest minority ethnic group in the country. This community is in part the result of a worker program that began in the 1960s that was brought on by a labor shortage in Austria. The oil crisis of the 1970s prompted Austria, like many western democracies, to limit further immigration and instead encourage temporary workers to either return home or to fully integrate into Austria.
Since then Austria has adopted more conservative approaches to immigration and naturalization. The country began using a national quota system to fill temporary work permits. While workers could come to the country and pay taxes to Austria, the path to citizenship is narrow. The Naturalization Act established jus sanguinis requirements, meaning citizenship is generally earned by proof that one’s family is Austrian. The country is also very restrictive of dual nationalities.
The country has established laws that aim at limiting immigrants and fully assimilating those that come. Part of these efforts have included integration courses on language, history, and law. Despite cultural assimilation efforts, structural integration has struggled. Ethnic Turks are underrepresented in the white collar workforce and earn lower wages. They also have lower levels of education on average. These components often impact subsequent generations and further compound inequality, obstructing fuller integration into Austrian society.
World War I
At the time of World War I (1913-1918), Austria was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In July of 1914 the empire declared war on Serbia following the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He was assassinated in Sarajevo by a member of Young Bosnia. The revolutionary group was primarily composed of Bosnian Serbs and Croats who sought to end Austro-Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovina. The assassination of Ferdinand is considered the event that triggered World War I, which at the time was known as the Great War.
Soon after, other nations formed alliances along this division. Those allied with Austro-Hungary, such as Germany and the Ottoman Empire, were part of the Central Powers. Meanwhile those that came to Serbia’s defense, such as France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States, were called the Allied Powers. Ultimately resulting in 40 million dead, the war was ended with Allied victory and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.