Vienna revives role as gateway to Eastern Europe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 1995, 12:00am

VIENNA is well known for coffee houses and culture but it is a city with a future as well as a past. Since the break up of Eastern Europe, Vienna has emerged as the obvious gateway to the countries which before they were apart of the Soviet bloc were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Hungary and the Czech and Slovak federal republic are only 60 kms from Vienna and transport links to the rest of Eastern Europe are excellent.

The Port of Vienna on the Danube is linked to an international waterways network extending from the North Sea to the Black Sea. The port is home to Europe's largest inland container terminal with an annual capacity of 120,000 containers.

In aviation terms, Vienna is emerging as an important hub.

Economically, Austria is enjoying healthy growth by European standards. Growth in 1994 was 2.5 per cent; unemployment stands at 6.5 per cent and dropping against a European average of 11.1 per cent and rising.

On January 1 this year, Austria took a decisive step towards becoming an East/West hub by joining the European Union - a single market of 320 million consumers which already accounts for two-thirds of Austrian exports.

As the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Vienna has traditional links with Eastern Europe. In addition to trade connections, similarities in languages and culture lead many Eastern European to look to Vienna as a gateway to the West.

The business environment has attracted many international companies to open offices in the cities and Austria is actively courting trade and investment from Asia.

The government wishes to promote Austria as a high quality manufacturing base at a relatively low cost by European standards. Labour costs, for example, are around 25 per cent lower than those in Germany and the workforce is well educated. About 88 per cent of all employees in Vienna attended high school or technical college.

In terms of environmental quality, the city scores highly. About 50 per cent of Vienna consists of parks and fields and 16 per cent is covered by woods. It is the only city in Europe to have vineyards within the urban area.