Austria

Overview:  U.S.-Austrian law enforcement cooperation remained strong in 2022.  Austria passed new antiterrorism legislation regarding the imprisonment of those convicted twice for terrorism offenses.  Parliament continued to implement 2021 reforms that replaced the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism, Austria’s key counterterrorism agency within the Interior Ministry, with the Directorate for State Security and Intelligence.

Austrian authorities monitor an estimated 100 people who returned to Austria from conflict zones.  About 70 of them are believed to still be in Austria, and seven are serving prison sentences. The government estimated that about 100 AustrianFTFs were still in conflict zones.  Overall, Austrian officials note that “Islamist terrorist” mobilization substantially declined after 2015.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no terrorist attacks in Austria in 2022.  Since the 2020 attack by an ISIS sympathizer in Vienna, investigators determined the terrorist carried out the attack alone but received encouragement from four ISIS sympathizers, and he received support, including assistance obtaining ammunition, from three others.  Six suspected accomplices were charged.  Their trial began in October and continued to the end of the year.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Parliament passed a law in 2022 granting courts the authority to impose tougher criminal penalties on those convicted twice for terrorism offenses.  Offenders who were convicted of a terrorist offense and served a prison sentence of at least 12 months and were then convicted a second time with a sentence of at least 16 months, can be imprisoned up to an additional 10 years in a high-security prison and receive anti-radicalization from violence measures during that time.

Austria continued to investigate those suspected of promoting REMVE, as well as around 100 individuals believed to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas suspected of possible involvement in terrorism.  Austrian law enforcement and DSN officials routinely cooperated with U.S. law enforcement in a range of areas, such as counterterrorism, including through joint investigative projects and enforcement operations.

Austria has taken a whole-of-government approach to implementing UN Security Council resolutions on counterterrorism, as well as the Global Counterterrorism Forum Good Practices on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of FTFs.  Austrian law criminalizes “travel for terrorism purposes” with prison sentences of six months to five years, extends domestic jurisdiction to individuals in Austria who committed a crime abroad, and ensures legal counsel for terror victims.  Austrian law implements the EU Directive on Combating Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

Temporary border checks with Schengen Zone neighbor countries, introduced in 2016, remained in place.  In December, Austria decided to end additional border controls at checkpoints on the border with Slovakia, implemented as a temporary measure to counter irregular migration in September.  Regulations allow border authorities to prevent minors from leaving Austria on suspicion they would participate in foreign fighting activities.  Border security forces continued to make use of security measures, including biographic and biometric screening at ports of entry, as well as information sharing internally and with other EU member states.  Austria’s rigorous processes to register and screen individuals applying for asylum, lawful residence, and citizenship remained unchanged in 2022.  EU and Austrian privacy statutes occasionally limit Austria’s ability to fully utilize tools available through international cooperation.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Austria is a member of FATF, and its FIU, the Austrian Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Austria’s national action plan on “Extremism Prevention and Deradicalization“ calls for improved networking among law enforcement agencies and civil society institutions; extension of exit programs for individuals radicalized to violence; better “transition management” through decoupling of terrorism convicts from their terrorist communities; increased civics and democracy education in schools; research on violent extremist and antidemocratic movements; providing counternarratives to radicalization to violence myths through information campaigns; and inclusion of the findings of Austria’s Documentation Center of Political Islam, which was established in 2020.  As part of this effort, Austria in 2022 hosted the Vienna Forum on Countering Segregation and Extremism in the Context of Integration.

The Ministry of European and International Affairs continued its cooperation with the Islamic faith community to conduct information campaigns, including on CVE, in mosques, Islamic organizations, community centers, and prisons.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Austria agreed to have biennial consultations on police cooperation and the fight against terrorism and violent extremism with Türkiye.  Austria participates in Eurojust’s EU-wide register, which lists ongoing terrorism investigations by EU member states.

Austria’s membership in International Organizations with a CT Focus:

  • UN
  • EU
  • Council of Europe
  • OSCE
  • Salzburg Forum
  • Central European Initiative
  • Western Balkans Counterterrorism Initiative

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