AT, Austria Directory, Overview

Austria - overview:
Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies in 1945, Austria's status remained unclear for a decade. A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized Austria's independence, and forbade unification with Germany. A constitutional law that same year declared the country's "perpetual neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. Following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995, some Austrian's have called into question this neutrality. A prosperous, democratic country, Austria entered the European Monetary Union in 1999.

Economy - overview:
Austria, with its well-developed market economy and high standard of living, is closely tied to other EU economies, especially Germany's. Membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to EU aspirant economies. Slow growth in Germany and elsewhere in the world held the economy to 0.7% growth in 2001, 1.4% in 2002, and again less than 1% in 2003. However, recent data signal that the recovery has started. The government estimates economic growth in 2004 of 1.7-2.1% and of 2.5% in 2005. The government is planning a EURO 500 billion income tax cut in 2004, though some economists doubt it will have stimulative effects in 2004, because it will be offset by higher health insurance contributions and higher taxes on energy. For 2005, Austria plans a tax cut of EURO 2.5 billion and harmonization of the various pension schemes. To meet increased competition from both EU and Central European countries, particularly the new EU members, Austria will need to emphasize knowledge-based sectors of the economy, continue to deregulate the service sector, and lower its tax burden. A key issue is the encouragement of much greater participation in the labor market by its aging population.

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