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Austria

About Austria

Austria is a land locked alpine country located in Central Europe. Once considered as the cultural powerhouse of Europe, it is a country rich in natural beauty diversity. A shared boundary between 8 countries makes Austria unique in its own way. Italy, Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia make up a border for Austria. Vienna, one of the world's greatest cities, is the capital of Austria and lies on the Danube river partly surrounded by the hills of the Vienna Woods. Virtually all government, financial and cultural institutions, as well as national media and large corporations are based in Vienna.

Austria was once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. The Republic of Austria, which came into being in 1918, has a population of 8 million out of which 20% live in Vienna. Around 73% of the population is Roman Catholic and there are 11 other officially recognized religions in Austria.

Austria, is a federal republic state with a parliamentary democracy. The Parliament of Austria is located in Vienna, the country's largest city and capital. The country consists of 9 independent federal regions. German is the official language of Austria. 93% of Austrians are German-speaking and the country has a diverse ethnic mix that includes six officially recognized ethnic groups.

A prosperous country - Austria is the 12th richest country in the world, it entered the European Monetary Union in 1999 and is one of the 23 European countries that use the common European money. The euro currency replaced the schilling, Austria's traditional currency, on 1st January, 2002. Austria signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995 and joined the Schengen group of countries which have created Europe's borderless Schengen Area which operates very much like a single state for international travel with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls. Austria is also part of "borderless Europe", resulting in many students from all over the European Union studying in Austrian universities and vice verse.

Austria, with its well-developed social market economy and high standard of living, is closely tied to other EU economies, especially Germany's. Germany has historically been the main trading partner of Austria, making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. However, after becoming a member state of the European Union, it has gained closer ties to other European Union economies thus reducing its economic dependence on Germany.

Its economy features a large service sector, a sound industrial sector, and a small, but highly developed agricultural sector. Austria has a strong economy with machinery, metallurgical products and textiles being of particular importance. The country's most important industry however, is tourism. Austria is one of the most popular summer and winter holiday destinations in Europe and has a very vibrant tourist industry. In the past decade, Austria'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 the aspiring economies of the European Union thus giving a significant boost to the Austrian economy.

Austria, ranked 25th in the world for its Human Development Index, is a member of the United Nations since 1955. Austria joined the European Union in 1995 and is a founder of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. According to the OECD Factbook of 2006, the levels of robbery, assault, and car crime in Austria are among the lowest in the developed world, and a study by Mercer ranks Vienna as the 6th safest city in the world out of 215 cities.