Vienna is now considered Europe’s espionage hub due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite increased covert activities, Austria’s government has made no significant moves to address this. Three opposition parties attempted to criminalize espionage, but government delays have stalled progress.
MP Stephanie Krisper, of the liberal Neos party, criticized the government for not changing laws to curb spying. The rise in espionage has impacted Austria’s reputation among its security-minded European neighbors. The country has largely ignored spying activities, unless they target the Austrian government itself.
The situation is concerning to European intelligence officials, as Austria is excluded from many intelligence-sharing networks. The country has only expelled four Russian spies following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, despite over 180 accredited Russian diplomats suspected of espionage residing there.
Austria’s government has deferred any votes on criminalizing espionage against foreign states or organizations until after summer recess. The lack of legal action against espionage has led to Vienna becoming a hub for Russian intelligence operations, evident in the prominent surveillance technology found around the city. The country’s main intelligence agency acknowledges this issue and the need for law adaptation.