Ties with Germany’s neighbour Austria are based not only on a shared language and culture, but also on a centuries-long and richly interwoven history that has seen its share of both high and low points. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation encompassed both Austrians and Germans and for several centuries the Holy Roman Emperors came from the House of Habsburg. Germany is Austria’s most important economic partner by far, with bilateral trade worth around 100 billion euros a year. Numerous German companies have branch offices and production facilities in Austria. The country is one of the most popular tourist destinations among Germans, who account for approximately 12 million visitors and 50 million overnight stays annually.
As neighbours, Germany and Austria maintain especially close political relations based on mutual trust. This is particularly true of their cooperation in the European Union. However, there are sometimes differing views on how things should be done. Especially on migration policy, fundamental differences of opinion have been evident recently. The generally excellent concord between the two countries is reflected in the numerous political contacts, also at federal state and municipal level. Because of the many similar political, economic and social challenges Germany and Austria face, interest in developments in the partner country is particularly keen.
German cultural and academic exchange with Austria is probably more intense and wide-ranging than with any other country. Many German conductors, orchestras, musicians, singers, directors, artistic directors and actors work in Austria, and the same applies to Austrians in Germany. Vacancies for academic positions are often advertised across the border. Numerous German-Austrian film and TV co-productions, some of which have won awards, testify to the excellent cooperation in this area, too. The Austrian state broadcaster ORF often shows the same evening programmes as German TV stations.
The admission of foreign, particularly German, students at Austrian universities remains a latent problem. In January 2007, the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Austria due to the quota system for those applying to study medicine and dentistry that Austria introduced in 2006 (75 percent of university places for Austrian citizens, 20 percent from other EU countries and 5 percent from other non-EU countries). The European Commission suspended these proceedings in May 2017. Austria maintains that without a quota for Austrian citizens a national shortage of practitioners looms because foreign students do not remain in Austria to practise. All in all, some 29,000 Germans are studying at Austrian universities and some 7900 Austrians at German universities. Most examination and degree certificates are mutually recognised (Agreement between Austria and Germany on equivalences in higher education of 13 June 2002, Agreement concerning cooperation in vocational education and concerning the reciprocal recognition of the equivalence of vocational test certificates of 1990, EU recognition directives).
Owing to the common language, the publishing markets in the two countries are very closely interconnected. Many Austrian writers are published by German publishing houses.
The two countries’ media markets are closely linked, as is illustrated by the fact that German publishing houses hold shares in Austrian media companies, co-productions in radio, television and film abound, and the countries cooperate on the TV channels 3Sat and Arte. Owing to extensive media coverage of the partner country, there is much common ground and overlapping in public debate on political, economic, cultural and social issues.