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IMMIGRATION

Number of foreigners in Vienna up 49 percent

The number of non-Austrians living in Vienna has risen by 49 percent in eight years, recent statistics show. Political parties are now considering not only how to tackle the theme of immigration but also how to appeal to foreign citizens, ahead of local elections in October.

Number of foreigners in Vienna up 49 percent
Vienna's markets show how multicultural the city has become. Photo: Gugerell/Wikimedia

460,163 non-Austrians now live in Vienna – 49 percent more than in 2007. The number of Austrian citizens has dropped by one percent.

EU nationals who are officially registered at their residence in Vienna (angemeldet) will be able to vote for their local district councillor in the Vienna elections – but not for the city council or the mayor (those elections are limited to Austrian nationals).

In 2014, 712,000 people in Vienna had a migration background. “That’s one out of two people,” Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou from the Green party said. “Integration is yesterday’s topic, now it’s about acceptance and promotion.” She added that education is the key and said that every child aged two years and up needs to have a guaranteed nursery place.

Some migrant groups have even started their own political parties, as they feel under-represented by the mainstream parties. The Türkische Liste (Turkish List) is led by doctor Turgay Taskiran, who says that the party is designed to appeal to “all individuals with and without a migration background”.

He has stressed that despite the name it’s not a “Turkish party… but an alternative for Viennese people who want to live together without prejudice”. He has also spoken against school classes where the majority of students are non-Austrian and said he is in favour of more “mixing”.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Häupl (SPÖ) said that “a lack of citizenship has nothing to do with a failure to integrate.”

Statistics from the mayor’s office show that the biggest number of immigrants (84 percent) are from EU countries, and that more than half of all immigrants in Vienna are aged between 20 and 29 years old. 44 percent of them have a university degree. The mayor's spokesman said that even if immigration brings certain challenges it also clearly “profits” the city.

However, Manfred Juraczka from the ÖVP said that the SPÖ and Green coalition has failed to tackle some of the immigration failures of recent years and called for “integration through achievement”.

Pollsters have said that the right-wing Freedom Party, with its anti-immigration policy, stands to benefit strongly from anti-immigration sentiment.

IMMIGRATION

‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

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