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#InvestmentPlan supports one of largest wind farms in Austria

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) and UniCredit Austria are investing €107.4 million to support the financing of one of Austria's largest wind farms. The entire wind farm will have a capacity of 143 MW and provide around 90,000 households with electricity produced from renewable sources. The project is expected to reach completion at the end of 2021.

The financing is supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Today the European Union confirms its commitment to supporting renewable energy in Austria and to helping the country to meet its decarbonization targets. This financing under the Investment Plan for Europe will lead to the construction of a 143 megawatt wind farm, which will bring clean energy to around 90,000 households in the state of Burgenland. Through projects like this, we will reach the goals of the European Green Deal and achieve climate neutrality by 2050”.

The projects and agreements approved for financing under the Investment Plan so far have mobilized around €524 billion in investment, of which around €84bn for energy-related projects. The press release is available here.

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Commission approves Austrian measures to support rail freight and passenger operators affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, two Austrian measures supporting the rail freight sector and one measure supporting the rail passenger sector in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The two measures supporting the rail freight sector will ensure increased public support to further encourage the shift of freight traffic from road to rail, and the third measure introduces temporary relief for rail operators providing passenger services on a commercial basis.

The Commission found that the measures are beneficial for the environment and for mobility as they support rail transport, which is less polluting than road transport, while also decreasing road congestion. The Commission also found that the measures are proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, namely to support the modal shift from road to rail whilst not leading to undue competition distortions. Finally, the waiver of infrastructure access charges provided for in the second and third measures described above is in line with the recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2020/1429.

This Regulation allows and encourages member states to temporarily authorize the reduction, waiver or deferral of charges for accessing rail infrastructure below direct costs. As a result, the Commission concluded that the measures comply with EU state aid rules, in particular the 2008 Commission Guidelines on state aid for railway undertakings (the Railway Guidelines).

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The measures approved today will enable the Austrian authorities to support not only rail freight transport operators, but also commercial passenger operators in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. This will contribute to maintaining their competitiveness compared to other modes of transport, in line with the EU Green Deal objective. We continue working with all member states to ensure that national support measures can be put in place as quickly and effectively as possible, in line with EU rules.”

The full press release is available online

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Europe needs more robust plan to deal with foreign fighters, Austria says

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The European Union needs a more robust and coordinated plan for dealing with foreign fighters and those who want to join their ranks like the jihadist who killed four people in Vienna last week, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday (9 November), writes Francois Murphy.

Protecting the bloc’s borders should also be part of Europe’s response to Islamist militancy, which Kurz will discuss with the leaders of France, Germany and the European Union today (10 November), he told a news conference.

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Traumatized Vienna silent after gun rampage

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Vienna’s streets lay eerily silent and empty under tight security on Tuesday afternoon (3 November), less than 24 hours after four people were killed in a gun rampage by a convicted jihadist in the busy city centre, writes .

On what was also the first day of a second national coronavirus lockdown, only the occasional car or van could be seen travelling along the broad, tree-lined avenues in front of the University of Vienna, City Hall, and Parliament, and very few pedestrians.

The area around the Stadttempel Jewish synagogue, where the attack began, was still cordoned off and guarded by police with their weapons at the ready, while armed officers controlled cars along the motorway leading to and from the airport.

Those forced to venture outside for work spoke of their shock over the violence.

“It’s crazy, everyone is worried. A life is not worth anything anymore,” said taxi driver Huseyin Gueluem while waiting for passengers at Vienna Airport.

Still visibly shaken by the night’s events, Gueluem compared the violence to militant attacks in Turkey. “Terror is terror, it knows no religion or state,” he said.

A newspaper vendor at the airport who wanted to remain anonymous also spoke of the mental toll.

“It’s all a bit much,” he said. “The attack, the new lockdown, I did not sleep at all tonight.”

Only journalists and a handful of curious residents had come to the area around the synagogue.

“Something like this was to be expected, even in Vienna,” said Josef Neubauer, who lives in Vienna. “It’s a big city. Berlin, Paris - it was just a matter of time.”

Some feared what the social impact of the attacks would be.

“These people want to make Islam bigger and bigger but in fact they make it smaller and smaller,” said student Zaccaria Assalmonashev. “And so they destroy it.”

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