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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 22:31 GMT
Austria's racial paradox

demonstration in Vienna Demonstrations against the Freedom Party continue


By Katya Adler in Vienna

It only takes a glance at the names in the local telephone book to realise that few Austrians can claim unadulterated Austrian blood.

Almost a thousand years of the Hapsburg empire ensured there was a true mingling of peoples and yet xenophobia is widespread in modern-day Austria.

In a 1997 poll, 42% of Austrians admitted to some degree of racism, compared with a European Union average of 33%.

And 70% said tensions would worsen if Austria's minority populations were to swell. But it probably won't.

Anti-foreigner campaign

Joerg Haider's Freedom Party shocked many at home and abroad with his virulently anti-foreigner campaign leading up to elections last October.

Mr Haider said the Freedom Party aimed to stop immigration in Austria altogether.

Yet the outgoing coalition of the Social Democrats and the Conservative Peoples Party practically did the job for him, reducing national immigration figures to some of the lowest in Europe.

Haider in Klagenfurt Mr. Haider led a virulently anti-foreigner campaign before the elections


A large percentage of Austria's 740,000 foreigners arrived during the 1960s and early 1970s, when Austria was suffering from a shortage of labour.

Most come from ex-Yugoslavia, but around a quarter come from Turkey.

Another influx of around 100,000 immigrants came to Austria during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995. Most live in Vienna.

Provincial policy

Austria's new Interior Minister comes from the Conservative Peoples Party which also has an image of being tough on immigration.

But the Federal government's role on immigration affairs is largely symbolic.

Austria's nine provincial governments decide their own levels of immigration.

It would seem that despite the xenophobic rhetoric, there is little the new government can legally do harm the status of Austria's immigrants.

But with the right-wing populist Freedom Party in power the streets of Austria could become a bit less welcoming to their foreign residents.

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider threatens 'high treason' inquiry
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider protests spread
05 Feb 00 |  Europe
Anti-Nazi protesters march in London
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider: View from the streets
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider's men and women
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Right-wing leaders puzzled over Haider
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Austria's problem with foreigners
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: EU differences in spotlight
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider

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