Voting Rights Reform
Austria becomes the first country in Europe to reduce the voting age to 16 for national elections, thereby becoming a forerunner in voting rights. Moreover, voting procedures will be simplified for Austrians abroad. Currently, casting an absentee ballot during an Austrian election requires confirmation by a notary public or another Austrian citizen. Soon it will be sufficient to apply for the ballot card, fill it out and return by mail. For those living abroad ten years or more, the reform will require their consent before being deleted from the electoral register.
Austria Ranks 2nd in Tourism
A study published by the World Economic Forum in Davos on tourism ranked Austria as the second most attractive tourist country in the world after Switzerland. Austria owes its top ranking to its accessibility through air and ground transportation, high safety standards, strong security/low crime rate, excellent infrastructure, and strict environmental regulations.
Austrian Katrina Relief to University of New Orleans
Donations and gifts totaling 1.61 million dollars offered the University of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina gives testimony to Austria’s generosity in the wake of disaster. The funds, generated by government and private institutions, reflect the strong ties based upon a 25 year-old partnership between the universities of Innsbruck and New Orleans.
Austrian Future Fund
The Austrian Future Fund was created as successor organization to the Austrian Reconciliation Fund which concluded it’s work by the end of 2005, having disbursed payments to 132,000 former forced laborers under the NS regime. Funded with 20 million euros, the Fund promotes remembrance projects and conducts scientific and historical research with an interest in the Holocaust, NS crimes and the aftermath of the NS era. Fund Chairman Waltraud Klasnic and Secretary General Ambassador Richard Wotava presented a favorable report on the Fund’s first year. So far 80 projects were approved, amounting to 2.5 million euros.
New EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), newly established on March 1, will succeed the European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and reside in Vienna. The new FRA will continue the EUMC’S initial focus of monitoring xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and will support the EU with respect to fundamental rights and formulation of courses of action.