For members


What are Austria’s Social Democratic Party’s plans to ease citizenship rules?

During a weekend party event, Austria's centre-left SPÖ presented their defence of a 'modern citizenship law' in Vienna. Here is what they are asking for.

What are Austria's Social Democratic Party's plans to ease citizenship rules?

Over the weekend, the centre-left party presented a ‘Charter of Democracy’ demanding a “modern” citizenship law. During an SPÖ Vienna political event, the red party presented the document, which said Austria has one of the “most restrictive naturalisation laws in Europe”.

“It mainly excludes financially weaker groups,” the document added.

The debate was raised by Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig (not for the first time) as he said that the democratic process needs to be reshaped – and that the situation in Austria could be improved.

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

“Many people who live here are not allowed to vote because they do not have Austrian citizenship”, Ludwig said, according to public broadcaster ORF. The mayor also reiterated his position on Twitter.

“The struggle for universal suffrage was at the centre of social democracy’s political activities for many years. Today, democracy is globally contested as never before. The situation in Austria is also in need of improvement,” he said

“Many people who live here are not allowed to vote. The right to vote is, in fact, linked to citizenship. As a federal state, #Vienna cannot change this by law. Therefore, we demand a modern citizenship law. It should make political participation easier, he added.”

What does the SPÖ want to change?

Firstly, the Viennese SPÖ wants to lower the financial requirements for citizenship. Currently, applicants need to show proof of €933 in net monthly income (after deduction of all fixed costs). However, Ludwig told Austrian media that the amount is unattainable for groups that “keep things running” such as care workers or cleaning staff. 

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Austria

He didn’t propose any specific income, but said that the current rules are “socially unjust” and that a reform would have to impose a “realistically achievable” amount. 

Additionally, Ludwig defended that the waiting period to apply for naturalisation be reduced from ten years of legal residence to five years. Currently, several factors (including being married to an Austrian or holding EU citizenship) already shorten the waiting period.

According to the SPÖ Vienna, every child born in Austria should automatically receive Austrian citizenship at birth if at least one parent is legally resident in Austria for five years. Currently, the child needs to have at least one Austrian parent to be entitled to citizenship.

The party also wants to give third-country nationals the same voting rights as EU citizens in Austria. Citizens of the European Union are entitled to vote in local and district elections, as per EU law. The SPÖ wants to extend those rights to foreigners from outside of the bloc as well.

Will there be any changes?

The Austrian People’s Party ÖVP and far right FPÖ party sharply criticised the mayor’s statements on Saturday. “The current demands of the Viennese SPÖ to ease the citizenship and voting rights are completely irresponsible and must therefore be clearly rejected,” said ÖVP Vienna party leader Karl Mahrer in a statement.

Integration Minister Susanne Raab (ÖVP) said the citizenship rules would not be softened. “Citizenship was a valuable asset and stood at the end of a successful integration process, not at the beginning”, she stated. The far-right FPÖ called the Viennese charter a “provocation”.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Could Austria ever change the rules to allow dual citizenship?

In the end, a coalition as it is in Austria, with the main party ÖVP and junior party Greens, is unlikely to bring any changes anytime soon.

The next parliamentary elections are set for 2024, though. This is when Austria decides on a new National Council and chancellor.

Things look tricky for Austria. Current coalition partners are plummeting in polls while the centre-left SPÖ e and far-right FPÖ climb. As it stands, a coalition between SPÖ-ÖVP looks likely – though the growth of the Greens and liberal NEOS could see Austria’s own “traffic light” coalition between SPÖ-Greens-NEOS.

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For members


‘Inhuman speech’: Austria’s far-right blasted for wanting to tie social benefits to German skills

Politicians in Austria criticised a far-right FPÖ leader who called for a suspension of citizenship granted to non-Europeans and for the tying of social benefits to proof of German skills.

'Inhuman speech': Austria's far-right blasted for wanting to tie social benefits to German skills

Austrian politicians criticised Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) member Maximilian Krauss in Vienna after he demanded proof of German as a prerequisite for social benefits and asked for “no citizenship to be granted to people who come from outside Europe”.

Jörg Konrad, a member of the liberal party NEOS, denounced the “inhuman speech” and said that the sole criterion for receiving the benefits was “need”. “Serious politics and striving for solutions simply cannot be expected from the FPÖ,” Konrad said.

During a Vienna Parliament session on Wednesday, Krauss, chairman of the FPÖ, pointed out that more than two-thirds of the total 260,000 people “collecting” minimum benefits in Austria lived in Vienna. 

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

According to him, the majority of them, almost 60 percent, did not have Austrian citizenship and were “making themselves comfortable at the taxpayers’ expense” in Vienna.

“The majority of minimum income recipients were social migrants unwilling to work”, Krauss said.

The FPÖ representative stated: “By now, we know that neither rocket scientists nor the urgently needed skilled workers came to our country in 2015”.

Krauss called for obligatory German language skills for tenants of municipal apartments or proof of German as a prerequisite for social benefits, such as the minimum income. He also demanded that Austrian citizenship should not be granted to people who come from outside Europe and said that immigration or family reunifications must be slowed down or suspended.

What is the ‘minimum income’?

The issue was raised because, according to Krauss, migrants came to Austria and, in particular, to Vienna, looking to live off of the country’s social system and the city’s “Minimum Income” (Mindestsicherung).

According to the City of Vienna, the “minimum income” is financial support to secure the cost of living and the rent of Viennese with little or no income. Only Austrians, EU or EEA citizens, persons entitled to asylum or third-country nationals who are long-term residents can apply for this assistance. 

The applicant must also generally prove their willingness to work via registration with the labour office AMS. In addition, there are several other preconditions and required documents to apply for assistance.

The monthly payment amount varies according to each person’s conditions, but, in 2022, it’s not more than € 978 per person, with possible extra payouts of up to €117 per minor child and up to € 176 if the person has a disability.

A sign reading ‘control’ (‘Kontrolle’) stands on the road at the German-Austrian border near Lindau, southern Germany. (Photo by STEFAN PUCHNER / DPA / AFP)

‘Xenophobic instincts’

“The minimum income serves as a social safety net against poverty, especially for children, single parents and people who are particularly at risk of poverty”, said centre-left SPÖ member Kurt Wagner. 

He went further: “The FPÖ rarely contribute to solving a problem but are often the problem themselves because of their populism and xenophobic instincts”.

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

Green politician Viktoria Spielmann said that the minimum income is enough to ensure the most basic needs: “Have you ever had to make do with such an amount? To put the amount into perspective, rents in Vienna averaged €500. So the minimum income was the least that would secure people’s existence.” 

For her, calling recipients “lazy” or unwilling to work is unfair.

So, how much do foreigners take up?

In 2021, 135,649 Viennese received the minimum income, according to Stadt Wien data. The number of non-Austrians receiving the payments was 77,746, accounting for about 57 percent of recipients. 

However, the City of Vienna mentioned that the Austrian capital has a higher proportion of foreign residents and cited a study that concluded that compared to Austrians, migrants from non-European countries had more difficulty getting jobs, even after years of living in Austria.

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

Additionally, foreigners also bring money into the Austrian economy. 

Figures from Austria’s Chamber of Commerce (Wirtschaftskammer) showed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs. 

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, but they are also an economic factor.”