FECL 45 (July 1996):

VIENNA CITY ADMINISTRATION INDULGES IN "CULTURAL RACISM"

The Viennese Green party is blowing the whistle on the Social Democratic city administration for introducing racist criteria into the Austrian capital’s immigration policy.

Affecting mainly Turkish nationals - but also a number of Serbian families - the city administration’s Magistrate Department 62 (MA 62) rejected applications for family reunification of third-country (non-EU) nationals on the grounds that the applicants had not demonstrated their ability to "assimilate to Central European customs, habits, and way of life especially in the areas of language and communication". "Applicants belonging to a cultural group which according to experience have difficulty assimilating" shall not be considered positively, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Greens pointed out that MA 62 officials had taken their decisions without even having met the applicants concerned. Peter Pilz, the head of the Green Group in the Austrian Parliament, said the MA 62 decisions were "the first racist motivations by a public administration since 1945".

An expert opinion (Prof. Ruth Wodat, and Prof. Bernd Matoushek) from the Vienna University Department of Linguistics termed the policy and text of the MA 62 as a typical manifestation of "cultural racism".

Vienna’s Mayor, Michael Häupl, criticised the MA 62 at his own press conference because identical wordings were used in the rejection of Turkish and Serbian nationals along cultural lines. According to Austrian law each case must be considered individually. But Häupl defended the principle of using cultural criteria because they are based on a ruling by the Ministry of the Interior in which "the ability to integrate" is considered a key factor in granting residency status. According to the mayor 25 cases have already been dealt with along the new "ability to integrate" lines.

A week earlier, Mayor Häupl had demonstratively expressed his support for several Social Democratic city district commissioners who had triggered a row by publicly demanding the "evacuation" of foreigners from city areas with a particularly large foreign population. Mayor Häupl argued such a policy aimed at the "soft renewal of the city".

Eugene Sensenig (Salzburg)

 

Sources: Salzburger Nachrichten, 19.6.96, 25.6.96, 27.6.96, 28.6.96; Standard, 25.6.96. Department of Linguistics, University of Vienna, Expert opinion R. Wodak and B. Matouschek on a decision of MA 62, Vienna 21.6.96, 8 p., in German.

 

 

FECL 45 (July 1996):

Comment

Austria joined the EU in 1995. Since then it has been having a hard time integrating its racist minority policies into a Western European greater whole. E.g.:

- Austria is the only country in the EU in which it is expressly forbidden to elect "third country nationals" (non-EU citizens) to the position of shop steward. In spite of international criticism, no policy reform is planned.

- non-EU-nationals are prohibited by law from standing for election in Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer), and Student Union (Österreichische Hochschülerschaft) elections.

- non-EU-nationals are excluded from a large percentage of the welfare services they fund through the mandatory federal "Social Insurance" scheme;

- handicapped non-EU-nationals are not eligible for national and provincial support for the handicapped;

- Austria has no anti-discrimination or antiracist legislation;

- Austria has no minority, integration, or race relations policy; etc.

93 per cent of immigrants are non-community nationals. Bosnians, Turks, Serbs, Croatians, and Kurds are the largest non-EU-national minorities. Because of the EU-Association Treaty with Turkey Austria is now being forced to improve the legal status of Turkish nationals legally residing in the country. For this reason the federal and local authorities are trying to prevent any new "privileged" non-EU-nationals from immigrating to Austria.

Vienna will be holding city elections this autumn. The nationalist and nativist leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, Jörg Haider, has announced that he will be playing the xenophobic card. This is one reason why the local elite of the Viennese Social Democratic party are attempting to show that they are not soft on immigration.

Ironically, a large percentage of the party cadres are made up of second and third generation Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians who migrated to the Hapsburg capital prior to World War I.

A second explanation for the culturally racist policies of the Viennese authorities is the fact that the Austrian capital has followed a policy of forced assimilation over the last 150 years. The very officials who are now defending Vienna from immigrants with a limited "ability to integrate" are themselves the children or grandchildren of Slavic, Magyar, or Mediterranean immigrants who were forced to become German Austrians in the first half of the 20th century.

Eugene Sensenig

 

Contact: alpin - Austrian Link to Progressive International Networking, A-5020 Salzburg, Jakob-Haringer-Str.3, Tel. +43/662 459454, Fax +43/662 454889, email: gender.link@magnet.at