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The Austrian Paradox

After Austria had bordered during the Cold War both the countries of the Warsaw Pact and the European Community, it joined the EU in 1995.


Because of the EU’s enlargement, it is now in the center of several regions with which it shares a common historical heritage.

The name of Austria dates back to the “Ostarrichi” County in the east of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation.


It was part of that empire from the 10th century until its dissolution in 1806. When by the end of the 19th Century it was kept out from the German unification by Russia it focused its attention to the East.

The dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was established in 1867 under the Habsburgs, in which Hungary enjoyed broad autonomy, and which existed as a multiethnic state (as a so-called middle power) until 1918.

After World War II, the monarchy was divided by the victorious Allied powers.


The Treaty of Saint Germain saw the creation of a Republic of Austria (opposed by the majority of the deputies in parliament in Vienna). They saw it as a non-viable landlocked Alpine country, with a capital city without a hinterland, and only 6 million people living on 83 800 square kilometers. The imperial and royal monarchy had been 680 000 square kilometers big and had in 1918 52 million inhabitants and has had throughout the country industry and raw materials. The deputies had therefore preferred an annexation to Germany. This finally came 20 years later, when Austria was annexed in 1938 by Nazi Germany.

This brief historical overview should make clear why in Austria developed a national identity slowly. The land belongs to the German language - and cultural area. But from a geographical and historical sense also to south-eastern Central Europe.

In 1945 the country was divided into four occupation zones.

In exchange for the withdrawal of Allied troops in Austria in 1955 then undertook strict neutrality. It did neither join NATO nor the Warsaw Pact nor the European Communities.

Only the end of the Cold War allowed Austria to join the EU in 1995.
The country has 8 million inhabitants. These include Slovenes, Croats, Hungarians in the east and south. We should also mention a German-speaking minority in South Tyrol in northern Italy.

Austria is a federation of nine states. One of these is the capital Vienna. Vienna is only 40 km away from the Hungarian and Slovakian border but 670 km from Bregenz, which can be accessed directly via German territory. There are historical, and geological reasons for this, as the Alps cover nearly 70 percent of the country.

North of it spreads a plain from the foothills of the Alps to the Danube, a major east-west connection in Europe.

Now for the Austrian economy - first to the industry:

In Linz there are chemical and steel industries. In Vienna petroleum industry, electronics and research-intensive high technology. Furthermore, mechanical engineering in the Vienna Basin.
Steyr has a supplier for the auto industry, BMW. (due to the proximity to Germany). More automotive companies,are in Graz, the capital of Styria. Austria is one of the largest electricity producers in Europe, as the Danube and the great height differences favor the use of hydropower.


Then farming: crops are corn, wheat, sugar beet and fruit and wine in the Danube plain. On the slopes of the Alps livestock and dairy industry operates. There is also through the many forests a thriving wood and paper industry.

Finally, the service sector. It is the driving force of the Austrian economy. These include the skiing areas, the landscapes of Tyrol, Salzburg province, as well as the historic cities of Vienna and Salzburg. There are also banks, transportation and retail companies, especially in the Vienna Basin. In addition, the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, the OSCE and several UN specialized agencies.

Mit Ausnahme der Schweiz und Liechtensteins gehören alle Nachbarländer Österreichs der Europäischen Union an. Österreichische Unternehmen tätigen die meisten Investitionen in Slowenien und Kroatien. Das erklärt auch warum die österreichische Regierung den EU Beitritt Kroatiens befürwortet. Abgesehen von der Wirtschaft spielt aber auch die Geographie und die Geschichte eine grosse Rolle. Die Balkanregion ist nicht weit. Österreich wirkte aktiv am Stabilitätspakt für Südosteuropa mit und es hat Friedenstruppen in den Kosovo und nach Bosnien geschickt.