U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998
United States Department of State
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Europe and Central Asia
Austria is primarily a transit country for drug traffic from the Balkans
to Western European markets. Illegal drug consumption is not a severe
problem in Austria, and there is no significant production or cultivation
of illegal substances. A new Narcotic Substances Act passed in mid-1997
maintains severe penalties for drug dealers while aiming at therapy rather
than punishment for minor drug consumption. Passage of this law enabled
Austria to ratify the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and
1988 UN Drug Convention in 1997. Austria remains an attractive site for
drug-related money laundering, although the government continues to
implement measures to narrow avenues for money launderers and facilitate
asset seizure and forfeiture. New legislation allowing the use of better
electronic tools to investigate drug-related crimes is expected to help
contain the growth in foreign-based drug crimes. Austrian law enforcement
authorities charged with combatting narcotics continue to face a lack of
adequate funds and personnel as a result of overall government spending
cuts aimed at reducing the deficit.
II. Status of Country
While Austria is not a significant producer of illicit drugs,
foreign-based organized crime, including drug activity, continues to grow
in Austria. While Austria has taken a number of commendable measures over
the last few years to address money laundering, all of its efforts are
overshadowed by the continued availability of anonymous passbook
accounts. Austria passed legislation in 1996 to abolish the opening of new
anonymous securities accounts; separate legislation, passed in 1997, will
expedite extraditions as well as confiscation of property and assets
arising from illegal activities.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997
Policy Initiatives. The new Narcotic Substances Act, to become
effective on January 1, 1998, focuses on therapy for drug users while
maintaining severe penalties for drug dealers. Drug dealers may face up to
20 years in prison, while first-time users of cannabis may avoid criminal
proceedings if they agree to therapy. The new law, which prepared the
ground for ratification of the 1971 and 1988 UN Conventions by the
government in fall 1997, provides penal provisions for those substances
listed in Annexes III and IV of the UN Psychotropic Substances Convention
of 1971 and the precursor substances of Annexes I and II of the 1988 UN
Convention, which until then were not covered by existing legislation.
On October 1997, legislation went into effect to provide investigators
with expanded powers to use wiretapping, electronic merging of data banks,
and witness protection programs. Other new regulations implemented in 1997
improve the government's capabilities in asset seizure and forfeiture, as
well as expedite extradition and expand judicial assistance.
Accomplishments. In addition to making major revisions to its
drug laws in 1997, Austria continued to participate in the EU's Monitoring
Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). In 1997, Austria joined the
EU's Drug Prevention Program and is currently working to implement the
EU-wide early warning mechanism for synthetic drugs. The second annual
country report on the drug situation in Austria was completed in November
1997. The new report provides drug-related data, discusses the effects of
the new narcotics law, presents further initiatives for demand reduction,
and addresses the on-going structural reorganization of the country's
organizations dealing with drug issues, such as establishment of a central
national coordination structure.
Law Enforcement Efforts. The number of drug-related criminal
offenses in Austria increased by 23.7 percent to 16,196 in
1996. Authorities believe that one out of two criminal offenses is
drug-related. Although data for 1997 are not yet available, law enforcement
officials expect a further rise of those figures.
The number of seizures rose by 21 percent compared to 1995. In 1996,
there were 4,838 seizures of various forms of cannabis totalling 517
kilograms, 19 seizures of poppy straw totalling 8.6 kilograms, 17
seizures of raw opium totalling 1,103 kilograms, 1,110 seizures of
heroin totalling 81 kilograms; 525 seizures of cocaine totalling 72
kilograms, 102 seizures of LSD totalling 4,166 trips, and 254 seizures of
Ecstasy totalling 25,118 doses.
A major narcotics case prosecuted in the US in 1996 with the cooperation
of Austrian authorities resulted in four sentences passed in 1997 ranging
from twelve years to life imprisonment.
Corruption. The GOA has generally applicable public corruption
laws. The US Government is not aware of any high-level Austrian government
officials' involvement in drug-related corruption.
Agreements and Treaties. The US-Austrian Mutual Legal Assistance
Treaty, signed in 1995, was approved by the Austrian government and sent to
Parliament for ratification in November 1997. A new US-Austrian Extradition
Treaty was signed on January 8, 1998, in Washington. The new Treaty
replaces one of 1930, and its supplement of 1934.
In 1997, Austria ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and acceded to
the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the Council of Europe
Convention. Austria expects to ratify the Europol Convention in Spring
Austria is a party to the 1961 Single Convention and its 1972
Protocol. Austria is a party to the WCO's International Convention on
Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and
Repression of Customs Offences "Nairobi Convention" Annex X on Assistance
in Narcotics Cases. The United States Government has concluded a Customs
Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of
Austria. Bilateral counternarcotics agreements are in place with Hungary,
Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. Similar agreements are planned with
various NIS countries.
Vienna is the seat of UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP), and Austria is a
UNDCP major donor. Austria participates in World Health Organization (WHO),
the Dublin Group within the European Union (EU), the Financial Action Task
Force on money laundering (FATF), and the Council of Europe's "Pompidou
Austria is a member of the "Narcotics Work Group," in Wiesbaden,
Germany, the "Work Group Southeast," in Bavaria, and the "Work Group
Southwest," in Baden-Wuertemberg, Germany.
Cultivation/Production. The US government is not aware of any
significant cultivation or production of illicit drugs in Austria. Although
the Health Ministry reports that some home growing of cannabis exists, no
figures for such cultivation are available.
Drug Flow/Transit. Various routes of the Balkan drug path remain
the major avenues for illegal import/transit of Southwest Asian heroin
through Austria. In a new development in 1997, drugs have been transported
back along the same route. This leads investigators to believe that drug
dealers on both ends of the route have closed ranks. The illicit trade is
dominated by Turkish groups, followed by traffickers from countries of the
former Yugoslavia. Romanian and Bulgarian nationals have become
increasingly active. Macedonian and Albanian dealers continue to use nearby
Bratislava, Slovakia as a temporary depository for heroin.
Demand Reduction. Austrian authorities tend to address drug
addiction as a disease, a fact reflected in latest legislation and in court
decisions. Demand reduction puts emphasis on primary prevention, drug
treatment and counseling, as well as on "harm reduction." Legislators in
1997 opposed individual calls to allow heroin for therapeutic purposes,
although Austria's westernmost province is considering a research project
on the adminstration of heroin for medical purposes.
Primary intervention encompasses the pre-school through secondary school
levels, and includes information kits and videos, as well as
extracurricular youth counselling, educational campaigns via mass media,
telephone services, and community programs such as drug-free
discotheques. Austria has started various measures for HIV prevention,
including syringe exchange programs, distribution of free condoms, AIDS
counseling, and free AIDS testing. Substitution programs have been in place
for over a decade.
Drug intervention policies are highly decentralized. Each of Austria's
nine provinces employs a drug coordinator (responsible for policy
decisions) and a drug commissioner (responsible for health-related
aspects). Nevertheless, most drug treatment, counseling, and prevention
services continue to be provided by NGOs. During 1997, the domestic drug
problem was highlighted by separate convictions of three prominent
Austrians (a ski jumping champion, a pop singer, and a TV sports anchorman)
for illegal consumption of cocaine.
IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation. Although Austria has no specific bilateral
narcotics agreement with the US, Austrian cooperation with US investigative
efforts is excellent. Austrian law enforcement officials participated in a
September 1997 seminar organized in Vienna by the US Department of Justice
on asset seizure and forfeiture.
The Road Ahead. The US will continue to support Austrian efforts
to create more effective tools for law enforcement, as well as to work with
Austria within the context of US-EU initiatives. The US will seek to
increase cooperation with Austria on narcotics issues as Austria assumes
the presidency of the European Union in the second half of 1998. Promoting
among Austrian officials a better understanding of US drug policy will
remain a priority.