Austria

Women’s rights NGOs call for more funding; Rule of law & anti-corruption referendum launched

In June 2021, a group of 12 Austrian citizens, “who have been dealing with the rampant corruption in the country and an increasingly questionable political culture for many years”, began collecting signatures for a Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Referendum. Protests were staged in May 2021 in Vienna to highlight the problem of femicide and in lights of recent murders of women by their intimate partners and called for funding. In May 2021, the Austrian government pledged an additional 24,6 million euros, which is a significant increase from existing funding, but just a small fraction of what was requested by organisations in the field. During a protest against COVID-19 measures, police are alleged to use violence distributed on social media. An investigation was opened into the matter. According to the Federal Chancellery, the new business model for Wiener Zeitung, the Austrian republic's official gazette, should be implemented by the end of 2022. Read more

Women’s rights NGOs call for more funding; Rule of law & anti-corruption referendum launched

Excessive force at protest, government reluctant to involve CSOs in COVID-19 recovery plan

As Austria looks forward to receiving 3,5 billion Euros from the ‘EU Recovery and Resilience facility’, organised civil society have raised concerns about the lack of willingness by the government to make transparent decisions and involve civil society in drawing up the plans. Around 20 demonstrations were registered on 1st May 2021 in Austria’s capital, but one at Vienna’s Votivpark saw excessive force by police, including the use of batons and pepper spray, and over 11 people were arrested In a concerning development, Austria’s Wiener Zeitung may face possible closure of its print edition after the federal government announced plans to scrap mandatory public advertisements of companies in its official gazette. If the plan is successful it could lead to the newspaper losing three quarters of its funding. Read more

Excessive force at protest, government reluctant to involve CSOs in COVID-19 recovery plan

Increased police powers to crackdown on protests, attempts to limit media freedom

Concerns have been raised about the speedy law-making processes, with well over 100 laws being passed since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, limiting the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. The past months have seen diminishing compliance with COVID-19 regulations, resulting in an increasing number of protests, many of which have been organised by far-right groups and COVID-19 sceptics. Following the breaking up of a gathering of around 2,000 people against coronavirus measures on 3rd January 2021, and a further demonstration of 2,500 people on 6th January 2021, where three people were detained, the Ministry of the Interior and Vienna State Police Directorate have announced a tougher approach by security authorities through issuing strict guidelines for peaceful assemblies. International organisations such as Amnesty International are concerned that the guidelines do not establish clear criteria in placing restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, and simply grant greater powers to police in the context of the pandemic. Read more

Increased police powers to crackdown on protests, attempts to limit media freedom

Austria civic space rating upgraded to open

Political gains made by the Green party and increasing dialogue between government and civil society has led to an improvement in civic space in Austria, prompting a ratings upgrade from narrowed to open. This ratings decision by the CIVICUS Monitor was taken following a thorough assessment of conditions in the country for the free exercise of civic freedoms, as protected by international law. In 2018 under the ÖVP-FPÖ (Peoples Party - Freedom Party Austria) coalition government, Austria was downgraded to narrow following a deterioration in civic space. However, the September 2019 election outcome has resulted in a positive change, as the far-right FPÖ party was replaced in the coalition by the Green party. The Green party has been more open to dialogue with CSOs, which presents the sector with the unique opportunity to make themselves heard again.
Read more

Austria civic space rating upgraded to open

CSOs included in governments COVID-19 emergency fund

The Austrian government implemented strict measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The new government has adopted a much more moderate tone and course than the previous government. CSOs have asked the government to support the sector economically, which could also be a potential opportunity to restructure the dialogue. On 15th March 2020, a law (Covid-19 Gesetz) was passed by parliament, which for the first time in Austrian history mentions "Non-Profit Organisations" and says that they are eligible for the same emergency fund as small entrepreneurs. Read more

CSOs included in governments COVID-19 emergency fund

New government action plan reveals change in attitude towards CSOs and human rights

Following the "Ibiza scandal", elections were held in September 2019. Although the support for the far-right Freedom Party Austria (FPÖ) dropped, Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) won 37.1% of the votes and formed a coalition with the left-leaning Green Party. While the hard line of the government on migration-related issues remains, it has shown a more positive attitude in relations to human rights and CSOs. Read more

New government action plan reveals change in attitude towards CSOs and human rights

Civil society space narrowing in Austria as CSOs face smear campaign and restrictions

This update covers the period from October 2018 to March 2019: The current government continues to refuse engaging in a structured dialogue with civil society. Instead, senior government officials made a number of derogatory remarks towards critical CSOs that is harming and undermining their work and reputation. Read more

Civil society space narrowing  in Austria as CSOs face smear campaign and restrictions

Austria's civic space rating downgraded from open to narrowed

Downgrade follows months of declining conditions for civil society in Austria. Read more

Austria's civic space rating downgraded from open to narrowed

As pressure on civil society grows, new coalitions are formed

Pressure is growing on civil society funding and access to government, as increasing restrictions are proposed on the social media activities of journalists at the state broadcaster, ORF. Read more

As pressure on civil society grows, new coalitions are formed

Government official oversteps mandate threatening to fire reporters with state broadcaster

In April, a government official said he could fire one third of the foreign correspondents of the state broadcaster “if they do not behave correctly” and carry out “more objective reporting”. Read more

Government official oversteps mandate threatening to fire reporters with state broadcaster