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What measures against foreigners is Austria’s far-right trying to take?

The Austrian far-right FPÖ party has recently defended two proposals involving a German mandate and job market access in parliament that could severely restrict the rights of foreigners in the country.

What measures against foreigners is Austria's far-right trying to take?
Participants with flags and banners attend a demonstration against the anti-corona measures in Vienna on April 10, 2021 amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these manifestations were organised by the far-right. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been known for its extreme views and background. From its Nazi origins (more on that below) to defending certain rights, including access to specific benefits and social assistance, be kept restricted to Austrians only, the party has grown in the past years with its anti-immigration and islamophobic rhetoric. 

What are they defending now?

On October 13th, the FPÖ – which used to be in the ruling coalition before it came crumbling down due to a far-right corruption scandal – made two proposals in National Parliament in line with their anti-immigration policies.

During a parliamentary debate on Monday, the party defended a motion of “German as a school language” in Austria. Besides bilingual and some private schools, all education institutions in Austria have German as a language of instruction. However, the party defends that it becomes the common language at all times.

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

“German should not only be spoken in class, but also during school breaks and at school events”, FPÖ education spokesman Hermann Brückl said.

Brückl based the party’s motion on data he brought, stating that “Every seventh child in a Viennese primary school knows so little German that they cannot follow the lessons” – even children who were born in Austria.

He didn’t clarify how – or if – kids would be forced to switch languages while playing among themselves, though.

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background” (meaning both parents were born abroad). (Photo by jussacat on Unsplash)

‘Sectoral restriction’

More recently, Austria’s parliament debated amendments to the Employment of Foreign Nationals Act. In addition, the federal government approved measures to avoid specific barriers to Austrian companies and foreign workers looking for employment after their undeclared work was discovered.

The FPÖ, though, took the opportunity to mention the increase in the number of non-Austrian job-seekers registered with the job authority AMS. The party argued for “sectoral restrictions” on access to the Austrian labour market for foreign workers, including EU citizens.

READ ALSO: ‘We need immigration’: Austrian minister insists foreign workers are the only solution

FPÖ social spokesperson Dagmar Belakowitsch said she fears that domestic workers will be “squeezed out” of the labour market and that long-term structural unemployment will become more entrenched due to the Covid-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine.

“The FPÖ will continue to consistently oppose all developments that are detrimental to domestic workers”, she emphasised.

How likely are these measures to pass?

FPÖ’s defence of “German as a school language” was made in an official speech to the Parliament, but hasn’t been submitted as a proposal, at least not yet. The party’s defence of a ‘restriction’ in the job market, on the other hand, was voted as a motion and rejected by a majority.

It doesn’t look like either would be adopted soon, especially while the Freedom Party remains an opposition force in the Austrian parliament.

However, the country will go through national elections again in 2024, when Austrian citizens over 16 will choose a new parliament and, with it, a new chancellor. Recent opinion polls make the situation extremely complicated for all parties.

One poll has the opposition centre-left party SPÖ leading with 28 percent, followed by the FPÖ with 25 percent of the votes. The coalition government of ÖVP (22 percent) and Grüne (10 percent) come next, both seeing major losses from 2019.

With no party having an absolute majority, politicians will be left to find coalitions to rule. If FPÖ continues with a fourth of the votes (or grows), they will be hard to ignore either as a potential coalition partner or a strong opposition in parliament.

Nazi ties and anti-immigration policies

When it was founded, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) had known ties to the Nazi party, as the party’s first two chairmen, Anton Reinthaller and Friedrich Peter, were former SS officers when the party was set up in 1956.

Though it has moved towards the centre in the first decades of its existence, the FPÖ adopted a populist political stance and is known for its right-wing nationalistic discourses. Moreover, the party has grown since 2015 with a strong anti-migration view, defending the “Austrian values” and feeding fears of an “Islamisation” in the country.

READ ALSO: Is Austria’s Freedom Party a ‘far-right’ party?

On its official website, the party manifesto states among its priorities are “protecting our homeland of Austria, our national identity and autonomy”.

It also states: “Austria is not a country of immigration. This is why we pursue a family policy centred around births.”

The FPÖ has also been a protagonist in rallying against the Covid-19 restrictions in Austria, organising protests against measures such as the lockdown, the mandatory use of masks, and testing. It’s also cast the coronavirus vaccines in doubt on several occasions.

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

The party has also campaigned with promises of making certain social rights and benefits based on (Austrian) citizenship. For example, it defended that the Viennese state-subsidised homes, the Gemeindebau, should be allocated to Austrians.

Of course, this goes against EU law that states EU citizens should be given the same treatment as nationals of any EU country.

It also ignores the fact that foreigners also pay their taxes and generate the same wealth that allows the Austrian government to hand out social allowances and benefits.

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POLITICS

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.

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