Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies in 1945, Austria's status remained unclear for a decade. A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized Austria's independence, and forbade unification with Germany. A constitutional law that same year declared the country's "perpetual neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. The Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and Austria's entry into the EU in 1995 have altered the meaning of this neutrality. A prosperous, democratic country, Austria entered the EU Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.
Austria, with its well-developed market economy, skilled labor force, and high standard of living, is closely tied to other EU economies, especially Germany's. Its economy features a large service sector, a relatively sound industrial sector, and a small, but highly developed agricultural sector.Economic growth has been relatively weak in recent years, approaching 0.9% in 2015, but rising to 1.4% in 2016. Austria's 5.8% unemployment rate, while low by European standards, is at its highest rate since the end of World War II, driven by an increased number of refugees and EU migrants entering the labor market. Without extensive vocational training programs and generous early retirement, the unemployment rate would be even higher.Although Austria's fiscal position compares favorably with other euro-zone countries, it faces several external risks, such as unexpectedly weak world economic growth threatening the export market, Austrian banks' continued exposure to Central and Eastern Europe, repercussions from the Hypo Alpe Adria bank collapse, political and economic uncertainties caused by the European sovereign debt crisis, the current refugee crisis, and continued unrest in Russia/Ukraine. The budget deficit stood at 1.4% of GDP in 2016 and public debt reached a post-war high of 86.2% of the GDP in 2015.