Austria is an independent democratic republic with a population of around 8.7 million and is a member of the European Union. Austria is a federal country with nine provincial states: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna.
In each federal province, there is a provincial capital from which the province is administered. The provincial capitals are: Eisenstadt (Burgenland), Klagenfurt (Carinthia), Sankt Pölten (Lower Austria), Linz (Upper Austria), Salzburg (Salzburg), Graz (Styria), Innsbruck (Tyrol), Bregenz (Vorarlberg), Vienna (Vienna)
Vienna is also the capital of Austria; this is where the seat of government is located. The head of state is the Federal President. He represents the republic externally. The people elect a parliament every five years. The Federal President is also elected by the people. Men and women are eligible to vote from the age of 16. The Federal President appoints the government; the Parliament has to agree to the appointment. A parliamentary majority can dismiss the government or individual members of the government.
Austria is a free and democratic republic.
Austria is a constitutional state – this means:
- Human rights are guaranteed by law.
- There is a separation of powers – state powers are distributed across several bodies (legislation – Parliament; enforcement of law – federal government, provincial government; jurisdiction – independent courts).
- Priority of the law: No state institution can breach valid laws. Any individual can assert his rights; the responsible authorities will help in this.
The dignity of every person in Austria is inviolable. Everyone has the right to life and physical integrity. Physical punishments are prohibited, as is the death penalty. Everyone may express their opinion freely but not insult anyone in the process. The freedom of the press is also guaranteed. Citizens may assemble peacefully. Each of these freedoms ends when it breaches the freedoms and rights of other people.
Laws are decided upon by the Parliament. The laws are the basis for all actions and are also above religious regulations. No religion may be in breach of the law. There is a criminal law in Austria. Religious regulations such as the sharia are not valid, even for foreigners. Their use will be punished if they breach Austrian laws.
From the age of 14 every person in Austria is of the age of criminal responsibility and can be punished; this also applies for foreigners.
Austrians celebrate Christmas on 24 December and Easter on Easter Sunday (in March or April). Both are Christian religious festivals. However, for reasons of tradition, they are also celebrated by people who do not belong to a religion. At Christmas, many people give each other gifts, even if they are not Christians. Most children receive Christmas presents, even if they have not been baptised. And at Easter brightly coloured Easter eggs are eaten – children first have to look for them because their parents have hidden them beforehand. If somebody gives you something for Christmas or Easter, that person does not want to convert you to Christianity. They only want to make you happy.
Yes, but almost all pre-school establishments take part in a lantern procession on St. Martin’s Day, and children without a religion or Moslem children also take part. St. Martin stands for devotion towards other people, for willingness to help, and for sharing.