Hungary’s Orban visits Austria after ‘race’ row

Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in neighbouring Austria on Thursday for a one-day visit after sparking a storm of criticism with comments against creating "peoples of mixed-race".

Hungary's Orban visits Austria after 'race' row
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (L) is welcomed by Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer (R) in front of the Federal Chancellery during Orban's official visit to Austria in Vienna, Austria, July 28, 2022. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer vowed to discuss the row with Orban, saying the Hungarian’s comments last Saturday were “of course to be criticised.”

“Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t shy away from direct dialogue,” Nehammer said on Wednesday.

The International Auschwitz Committee has urged the European Union — and Nehammer specifically — to distance themselves from “Orban’s racist undertones”.

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Austria is the first EU country to host Orban for talks since he won a fourth straight mandate in an April landslide.

“Hungary is an important neighbour and partner for us, both countries are severely affected by irregular migration, which we want to fight together,” the conservative Nehammer tweeted last week before Orban’s latest controversy.

Vienna sees itself “as an honest broker” and is anxious not to sideline Hungary, an Austrian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Jewish community representatives voiced alarm after Orban last Saturday criticised mixing with “non-Europeans” in a speech in Romania’s Transylvania region, home to a Hungarian community.

Orban, an ultra-conservative known for his anti-migrant policy and virulent rhetoric, said that “we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race”.

The 59-year-old also seemed to allude to the Nazi German gas chambers when criticising a Brussels plan to reduce European gas demand by 15 percent following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Hungary was the only EU member to oppose the plan, which passed on a majority vote this week.

On Tuesday, an advisor to Orban, Zsuzsa Hegedus, resigned, slamming his speech as “a pure Nazi text”.

In response, Orban stressed his government’s “policy of zero tolerance when it comes to anti-Semitism and racism,” according to a letter made public.

Discussions on energy and migration

The Hungary leader defended his comments against creating “peoples of mixed-race”, saying they represented a “cultural” standpoint.

“It happens sometimes that I speak in a way that can be misunderstood… the position that I represent is a cultural… standpoint,” Orban told reporters during his visit to Austria.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said in a joint press conference with Orban that the issue had been “resolved… amicably and in all clarity”, adding his country “strongly condemned… any form of racism or anti-Semitism”.

Besides the race row, the two leaders discussed migration and energy security amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

International business owners in Vienna bring in billions of euros in revenue and taxes each year, according to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce.

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna's economy

New figures show that Vienna’s international entrepreneurs do more than simply boost diversity in Austria’s capital city – they also significantly contribute to the local economy.

The Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce) has revealed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs.

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties, reports ORF.

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Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, they are also an economic factor.”

Ruck added that more than 200 international companies move to the capital each year and said the diversity is helping Vienna to financially recover from the pandemic. 

The Chamber of Commerce considers a business owner to have a migration background if they were not born in Austria and/or they have a non-Austrian nationality.

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According to ORF, there are 34,000 entrepreneurs in Vienna with a migration background and 7,400 of those business owners have Austrian citizenship.

Additionally, 4,500 business owners have Slovakian nationality, 3,800 are from Romania and 2,600 have German citizenship.

The most popular business sector for people in Vienna with a migration background is retail, followed by real estate and technical services.