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Austria factfile

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Austria, which joined the European Union in 1995 and was one of the 11 founder members of the eurozone, goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament.

Key facts:

GEOGRAPHY: at the heart of Europe, Austria is bordered by Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Its territory covers 83,879 square kilometres (32,385 square miles) and is divided into nine regions or "Land".

POPULATION: 8.4 million (Statistik Austria, 2012)

LANGUAGE: German

RELIGION: majority Roman Catholic

CAPITAL: Vienna, population: 1.74 million

HISTORY: under Habsburg rule from the late 13th century up until 1918, Austria became a republic in the wake of World War I, after the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1938, it was annexed by Nazi Germany -- an event known as the "Anschluss" -- and then remained under Allied occupation for 10 years following World War II until the 1955 State Treaty, which recognised its independence.

In 2000, Austria found itself under EU sanctions for six months, following the entry into government of Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

Vienna has been home to one of the United Nations' headquarters since 1979 -- including the nuclear watchdog IAEA and the UN office of drugs and crime (UNODC). Other international organisations with seats here include OPEC and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Austria is a parliamentary democracy. The president, who has a mostly ceremonial role, is Heinz Fischer. First elected in 2004, he is serving his second six-year term.

The head of government, Social Democrat (SPOe) leader Werner Faymann, became chancellor after the last general election in 2008, sharing power with the conservative People's Party (OeVP) in a "grand coalition" -- a model that has dominated Austrian politics since 1945.

Political parties in current parliament: SPOe - leader Werner Faymann, OeVP - Michael Spindelegger, FPOe - Heinz-Christian Strache, Greens - Eva Glawischnig, Team Stronach - Frank Stronach, Alliance for Austria's Future (BZOe, far-right) - Josef Bucher.

Election results in 2008: SPOe 29.3 percent, OeVP 26 percent, FPOe 17.5 percent, BZOe 10.7 percent, Greens 10.4 percent.

ECONOMY: Austria's economy is dominated by the banking and insurance sectors, as well as tourism and a strong industry. In 2012, it recorded 0.8 percent growth and is banking on 0.4-0.6 percent this year (WIFO and IHS economic institutes).

Heavily dependent on exports, with neighbouring Germany it biggest market, Austria also has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union (4.8 percent in July, Eurostat).

ARMED FORCES: 45,000 soldiers, including 22,000 conscripts every year. Austria voted in a referendum in January to keep its military draft system rather than switch to a professional army.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130925/austria-factfile