Following a fall of three places in last year’s index, Austria has rebounded this year, coming in 16th. The rise is partly due to an improved Enterprise ranking, reflecting the country’s thriving business environment and strong international trade infrastructure. Austria also placed in the top ten in the Government sub-index, despite a tumultuous twelve months of domestic politics. 2019 saw the first successful no-confidence motion since the country regained its independence in 1955; former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government collapsed after a video sting exposed the then-leader of his coalition partner promising government contracts in return for campaign funding. While Austria’s interim technocratic government has maintained stability in the immediate aftermath of this scandal, the long-term impact on domestic and international perceptions of Austrian politics remains to be seen.
Recent political shocks may have affected Austrian citizens’ trust in government, but general well-being in the country remains high. Austria has also maintained its position as an international hub, with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and OPEC all headquartered in Vienna.
Austria’s ranking in Digital sub-index suffered this year, after falling seven places. While the country’s digital infrastructure and high internet penetration rates have remained consistent, online engagement with key political figures has tumbled. The interim government has been less active on online platforms than previous political leaders, resulting in a poorer performance in the digital diplomacy metrics.
Following one of the country’s most serious political scandals in recent history, the newly-elected government will need to meaningfully engage with the Austrian population to address the resulting cynicism and fallout. Traditional and digital platforms must be utilised to restore trust and engagement with the country’s leaders, or Austria risks falling in future rankings.