Last updated in March 2017
Ties with Germany’s southern neighbour Austria are based not only on shared language and culture but also on a centuries-long and chequered shared history. 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 95 billion euros a year. Numerous German companies have registered offices and production facilities in Austria. Austria is one of the most popular tourist destinations among Germans, who account for approx. 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, where both countries are calling for a fair distribution of the refugees among EU member states to resolve the refugee crisis. Differing views on the ways and means and occasional differences of opinion are quickly resolved. The deep-rooted mutual understanding is reflected in the numerous political contacts between the two countries. 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 instigated a treaty violation procedure 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). This procedure has since been suspended. 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 (German-Austrian Agreement on the Recognition of Equivalencies in Higher Education of 13 June 2002, Agreement on Equivalencies in Vocational Training 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: German publishing houses hold shares in Austrian media companies, there are co-productions in radio, television and film and there is cooperation through 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 of political, economic, cultural and social issues.