“One must be convinced to convince, to have enthusiasm to stimulate the others.”

Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer

“Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube”.

‘Let others go to war – you, happy Austria, marry’ described the marriage policy of the Habsburg Empire. Today, Austria follows another strategy for peacekeeping: In 1955, ‘perpetual neutrality’ was declared. Austria is the only continental country of the European Union that is not a member of NATO.

Austrian companies were not only among the first of so-called Western Europe to do business in Eastern Europe after 1989. Figures by the Austrian Business Agency (ABA) show that also companies of Eastern European origin appreciate the Austrian market: In 2010, 45 of such companies settled in Austria, following the 34 in the crisis year 2009. They mainly come from Russia (13), Hungary (11) and the Czech Republic (8).

As of 1 May 2011, when the EU-wide agreed upon transition period expires, people from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland and the Baltic States are fully eligible to work in Austria. Austria was among the last EU countries to open its labour market to Europeans from Eastern countries.


The autumn of the year 1989 was not only a turning point for the countries of Eastern Europe. Also in Austria this was the start of a change process that hasn’t stopped until today. Once having been a large Empire and European power, then having taken part in the crimes and suffered the tragedies of the first half of the twentieth century, finally ending up at the eastern periphery of the so-called Western world, Austria suddenly became a new heart of the unified continent after the fall of the Iron Curtain. And the Austrians became aware that Vienna lies further east than Prague.
Austria A member of the ERSTE Foundation Community in Austria: Michaela Moser is Head of Communications of ASB Schuldnerberatungen, the umbrella association of the Austrian debt counselling organisations, and an activist at Armutskonferenz (Conference on Poverty).

Since the European Union enlargement to the East, Austria has been a hub for East, West and all other directions. The Vienna phone book, full of Slavic names, is not only a testimony to its history, but also a document of the present: day by day, it becomes more international. Austria very successfully plays its role on centre stage. Despite being relatively small with a population of 8.4 Mio, it is a prosperous country, in terms of GDP. Austria is the 12th richest country in the world and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.

Ideas on how to foster a socially stable society, in which everybody should be able to provide for him or herself, arose early. It was in Austria where the first bank for common people in Central Europe opened its doors in 1819: the Erste Oesterreichische Spar-Casse in Vienna. Vienna, Austria’s capital, is home to the headquarters of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation as well as their microfinance and social entrepreneurship initiative ‘good.bee’.


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