A quick-and-dirty synopsis of last month’s Austrian News

Uber Faces Legal Headwinds in Vienna

As in many other cities, an Uber ride is much cheaper in Vienna than taking a taxi. This is due to a lack of clarity in the legislation surrounding taxis and car rental companies. There is currently no law encompassing car sharing services. However, an October ruling of the higher court of appeals in Vienna postulated that Uber is to be classified as a car rental company.

In practice, that means Uber cars are not allowed to pick people up on the street, but instead should always start and end their journeys at a Betriebsstätte (business premises), just like rental cars. This would effectively put an end to Uber’s operation in Vienna. The Austrian Chamber of Commerce has also recently stepped up controls, bringing legal cases against Uber drivers who breached laws regulating passenger transport.

Uber regards its app as the virtual equivalent of the business premises of a rental car – since the transaction is completed there – and plans to continue operating in Vienna. Car rental companies disagree, saying Uber is in breach of the legislation. Noncompliance may lead to a penalty of up to €64,000.

Need to know

Uber has been operating in Vienna for three years, but has recently faced difficulties with Austrian law, just as in London, Rome and other European cities.

What others said

“It is ok & of course legal to use the Uber app in Vienna” – @uber_at in a Tweet on October 11.

Austria has Voted

The results of Austria’s elections on October 15 are in: Reaching 31.5%, the conservative ÖVP are the indisputable winners, with 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz at their head. The left-centrist SPÖ are in second place with 26.9%, putting them ahead of the FPÖ with 26%. The NEOS reaching 5.3% and the Liste Pilz with 4.4% both passed the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament. The Green Party, however, has failed to do so with 3.8% and therefore won’t be in parliament for the first time in 31 years.

Voter turnout reached an impressive 80%, that’s 5% higher than for the last parliamentary elections in 2013. As no party reached a majority, the parties must form a coalition government in the coming months. Any variation involving two of the three largest parties (the ÖVP, SPÖ and FPÖ) seems possible, a center-right government is the likeliest outcome.

Need to Know

If he succeeds in forming a coalition, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) will become the world’s youngest head of government.

What others said

“My Vienna is not deppert (dopey, dumb)” – Michael Häupl, Mayor of Vienna (SPÖ), commenting on the solid victory of the SPÖ in Vienna (34.5% to 21.6% for the ÖVP).

Austrian “Burqa Ban” Yields Strange Results

The Austrian Verhüllungsverbot (ban to fully cover the face) has been in force since October 1. Dubbed “burqa ban,” the legislators went to great lengths to avoid drafting a law that would exclusively apply to Muslim garments, for fear of falling foul of fundamental constitutional rights. The result is a law that also applies to clowns, mascot head coverings and people wearing scarves that cover their face in summer. The measure was widely ridiculed when the police issued its official guidelines with explanatory cartoons in September. Since the ban has come into force, the police have enforced it 30 times in Vienna. In eight of these cases, the authorities pressed charges, four cases involved fully veiled women and two were acts of protest.

The police also asked Vienna’s famed horse-head musicians to take off their signature disguise and pressed the parliament mascot bunny, Lesko, to show his face. In fact, mascots at work or artistic disguises are permitted – but the law says such cases are at the police’s discretion. The police reported a shark mascot because it was not clear if he was at work – he was standing in front of the new McShark shop.

Need to know

Concerns over religious extremism have given rise to a strange law surrounding head adornments.

What others said

“The legislator demands an unconcealed face in the public sphere. But there is no exhaustive list of cases.” – Karl-Heinz Grundböck, spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior

Christmas Market Season Starts

In Vienna, the second tourist season starts when the 18 official Christkindlmärkte open over November. Inviting visitors to do their Christmas shopping and have a glass of Glühwein, Winter im MuseumsQuartier leads the charge, opening on November 9. All markets will be open through December 23, some even till new year. The most popular is in front of Schloss Schönbrunn, the oldest next to Stephansdom. Last year, Austrians spend €65 per capita at Christmas markets, which made an average turnover of €1.6 million.

Need to know

Holiday cheer descends upon Vienna, drawing tourists by the busload.

What others said

“Punch, it has to be pronounced punsch, is a drink made of boiled water, rum, sugar and liqueur. You can drink it cold or warm … Punch and a tobacco pipe is the English element.” – Leopold Mozart, explaining the facts of life to his son, Wolfgang Amadeus.