Austria- a small country with an area of 83.84 square kilometres
(32.274 square miles) and 7.8 million inhabitants - is situated in the very
heart of Europe. With no immediate access to the sea, Austria shares its borders
with eight countries: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic,
the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.
Due to this geographical position and out of a historical role as a link
between the Orient and the Occident, Austria has successfully established its
role as a stabilizing political factor in Central Europe and as a turn-table of
East-West trade. Important international organizations, such as the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Industrial
Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) have chosen Vienna, Austria's capital, as their headquarters.
As stated in its constitution, Austria is a democratic republic, composed of
nine federal provinces. The legislative authority, on the federal level, lies in
the hands of a two-chamber Parliament: the first chamber, called 'Nationalrat'
(National Council), is elected at four-year intervals and, at present, consists
of representatives from five political parties. The second chamber, the
'Bundesrat' (Federal Council), represents the interests of the nine provinces.
Laws passed by both chambers of the Parliament must be signed by the Federal
President, who is the Head of State, elected in direct polls for a term of six
years. The executive, on the federal level, is a government headed by the
Chancellor ('Bundeskanzler'). In each of the provinces there is a provincial
legislative dealing with matters reserved to the provinces by the Federal
Constitution and a provincial government headed by a 'Landeshauptmann'.
The capital, Vienna, is one of the nine provinces.
Austria's climate is moderate: the average temperatures during the summer
(June to mid-September) are around 20° C/68° F, with occasional temperatures
as high as 35° C/95° F; during winter (mid-November to February) it may get as
cold as -15° C/4° F, but the average lies around -4° C/25° F. There may be
heavy snowfall, in particular in the mountains (by the way, Austria's highest
mountain is the 'Großglockner' at 3.797 metres). Most of the rain is to be
expected in May and June, but there is no distinct rainy season.
Approximately 19% of the total territory is arable land, 25% is grassland,
40% consists of forests and the remaining 15% is mountain regions. Like in all
Western industrialized countries, we also find in Austria the tendency towards
concentration of population and settlements: 50% of the Austrian population live
on 5% of the territory. The most important of these concentrations are the