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Austria and Europe

Written By: - Date published: 2:07 pm, October 16th, 2017 - 20 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, democracy under attack, democratic participation, elections, Europe, Globalisation, im/migration, International, Politics - Tags:

Why is Europe continuing to vote for anti-immigration parties, spurning the once-dominant centre-left parties? The Austrian election has finally provoked me.

After World War II, European societies were built on principles that owed a lot to centre-left ideas. There was widespread agreement after the war that the political chaos and social upheaval associated with the Great Depression had been the consequence of unregulated markets, so the idea that they should be left unregulated again was an anathema. And so, when European political economies were rebuilt, they were designed to ensure that capitalism was reined in by governments. Just to focus on Austria for a moment, it’s been said by historian Gunter Bischof that no country did better out of the Marshall Plan that stabilised industrial production than Austria. This postwar order worked well: The three decades after 1945 remain Europe’s period of fastest growth ever.

So why now are so many exclusionary parties gaining in share and now gaining power?

My quick answer is that more and more are viewing foreign immigration as shorthand for globalised trade stealing economic security. More and more voters view un-integrated migrants as standing for destabilisation and economic insecurity.

This is growing fast. Way, way back in May 1989, 28% of Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist supporters pronounced themselves “globally in agreement” with the ideas about immigrants expressed in the program of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front. In 1991 the figure was 50%. In the Presidential elections of 1995, the socialist candidate Lionel Jospin got just 21% – a figure they can but dream of now. In 2017 the National Front was actually running off for the Presidency itself.

Other examples abound, but here’s the fresh one: a 31 year-old from the further right is now elected to run Austria.

His People’s Party won 31%, and they will form a coalition with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party who came in second with 26%: 57%. The Austrian Greens are gone, and the old social democrat parties are way down.

In 2015, Austria was used as a gateway for nearly 900,000 migrants making their way to Germany.

In a poll reported in Deutcsche Walle, state broadcaster ORF reported 55% of respondents said that they voted for the OVP (People’s Party) because of their stance on asylum and immigration.

The threat and its political results is clear.

And yet for so many at the core of Europe, European integration and free borders to economic migration really works. To see Europe at work for the “winners” one has only to spend a few days in the triangle made up by the towns of Saarbrucken (Germany), Metz (France), and Luxembourg. Here prosperous citizens of three countries travel freely across all-but-vanished frontiers. People, employment, commodities, and entertainment move easily back and forth among languages and states, seemingly unconscious of the historic tensions and enmities that marked this very region in the quite recent past.

The threat to this prosperity used to emerge from the European south – from the south of Italy, Spain, Greece. Each in turn provided waves of immigration from distinct European subcultures for cheaper and less skilled labour. Thirty years ago, many European saw this multiculturalism – the embrace of an inclusive and diverse society – as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today it is clear a growing number consider it to be a cause of them. That perception has led to some mainstream politicians including previous Prime Minister David Cameron and Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fuelled the success of far-right parties across Europe.

But the truth about multiculturalism is complex and highly coded. Multiculturalism has become a proxy for amalgamating social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working-class decline. Different countries have followed distinct paths. While the United Kingdom’s public sector has worked hard over the last two decades to give various ethnic communities a more equal stake in the political system, some non-integrated Muslims have perpetrated outrageous violence. Germany has encouraged immigrants to pursue separate lives in lieu of citizenship, but the Turkish communities have drifted further from mainstream society. Everywhere you look in Europe, the overarching consequences from the immigrants arriving since the high point of the early 1970s has seen fragmented societies, alienated minorities, and resentful citizenries.

The causes may be legion, but from the citizenry voting against them, the biggest interest they seek to protect is economic. Prior to the GFC a decade ago, and the austerity programmes that made things worse, the “losers” in Europe’s postwar history have been sustained by complicated but expensive and substantial systems of regional aid that the European Union put in place within and between countries. These amount to a form of institutionalised relief – constantly correcting for market deformations that have concentrated wealth and opportunity in the rich northwestern core without doing much to alter the causes of the disparity. Southern Europe, the periphery countries, and the “immigrants” thus constitute a community of the disadvantaged for whom the EU is the only source of relief on the one hand – for without their help the depressed mining communities and unprofitable peasant villages would be in even worse trouble than they are – and envy and resentment on the other.

Failure to protect sustained prosperity is viewed by voters as an undermining of the entire project of European integration, and you can see the significant impact of globalised manufacturing on European voting patterns here.

It’s also worth looking at “The Trade Origins of Nationalist Protectionism: Import Competition and Voting Behaviour In Europe” by Italo Conantone and Piero Stanig.

That same impact from globalised manufacturing can be seen on the Brexit vote.

The really chilling thing is how much the citizen-frog is enjoying feeling the heat turned up in the pot. So many Austrians are nonplussed by a hard-right president and government. “Most people just don’t associate the Freedom Party with the far right anymore,” says Günter Haunlieb, a senior director at Gallup International, a leading pollster in Vienna. “The Nazi label doesn’t stick.”

Voters do, however, associate the mainstream parties with the period of economic stagnation that took hold after the global financial crisis of 2008. Unlike Greece, Spain and other debt-wracked E.U. members, Austria came away from the crisis relatively healthy, and its economy has returned to growth. But the crisis has left Austrians feeling unmoored, fearful of losing what they still have. “A steady job previously guaranteed a comfortable life here,” says Haunlieb. “But that’s finished. People have stopped believing they can move up the social ladder.”

There is hardly a democracy in Europe where that same sentiment would not ring true. Countries in the formerly communist East have been hit especially hard by factory closures, high unemployment and an exodus of young workers to the wealthier states of Western Europe. They have all been able to capitalize not only on fears of migration but also on angst over economic inequality, often with what seem like the same slogans in different languages. On immigration: Send them back! On Muslims: Keep them out! On the media: Full of lies! On the Establishment: Crooked! On the elections: Rigged! Even their tactics seem to run in parallel, especially when it comes to the politics of fear.

It used to be possible to conceive of such failures in long Marxist waves: painful crises are followed by incremental reforms that lead to deeper integration. From the GFC, so the theory goes, institutional collapse leads to policy crisis that threatens to destroy whatever progress has been made to integration. Unwilling to allow such collapse. E.U. leaders then agree to a set of minimal reforms they think are necessary to save what they have accomplished, strengthening their common institutions but leaving them incomplete in ways that will later spark another crisis. But the political trends right across the continents’ elections are now too great to ignore: France’s President Macron stands alone with the E.U. President as seeking greater integration. What matters now is far simpler: the E.U. hasn’t delivered enough in a decade, individual members states are fracturing from internal and external threats, and the centre of its idealism holds less and less.

The simple test for the European Union, as it is for any political party is this: you keep fear down and the politics of xenophobia at bay when you consistently deliver the economic goods. Fail to do that with really significant cross-regional wealth transfers, and the whole thing will start to turn to the path that Austria is now on.

20 comments on “Austria and Europe ”

  1. Sparky 1

    People are afraid for their jobs, afraid of possible crime and possibly losing their sense of self. Really no government should undertake this kind of mass migration without asking their citizenry and lets be honest in many nations in Europe that has not happened. The result is this kind of back lash.

    • Michelle 1.1

      Well people here in good old NZ need to think how our Maori people feel cause all this immigration does not bode well for us as a people. Yet we have a Tory government hell bent on bringing in thousands every year so the rich can get richer. Put yourself in our shoes.

  2. esoteric pineapples 2

    They are all going to get a shock when literally millions upon millions of migrants start heading for any part of the world that is functioning as the world heats up.

  3. Smellpir 3

    Excellent post.

    I have been challenged recently by political friends in the US to explain why the politics of immigration in NZ is actually different to reprehensible political impulses now being unleashed in the US and what you are characterising in Europe.

    At one level, what NZ First is proposing IS similar, and I accept your premise that a vote against a tide of ethnically-demarcated, poor immigrants is a proxy challenge to the destabilising effect of globalisation. However, the tide of rich globalists who see NZ as a safe haven for their abundant store of mobile capital seem to be something else? Yes, they are the flip-side of globalism – if immigration exposes countries to the flight and plight of the poor victims of globalisation and neoliberalism – the losers – then surely it also exposes us to the wishes and desires of the winners?

    So, can we have genuine progressive immigration policy that doesn’t punish the victims as well as the winners? (I can’t see that accepting a few thousand refugees exhausts our national responsibilities to the the disenfranchised of the world).

    I hope we can, although maybe protecting us from the ‘amenity predators’ of the world like Peter Thiel isn’t achieved through immigration policy, but through rules around property ownership and a different tax regime?

    • Ad 3.1

      I suspect your point about our resistances to globally mobile elites and property ownership in New Zealand is about to get tested,no matter who our new government is. Yet another challenge to our real estate bubble.

      I’m not yet game to do a post on New Zealand immigration policy after the kerfuffles from last week. I might just keep picking on somewhere safe and distant like Austria. 🙂

  4. Sanctuary 4

    The problem with modern immigration is it now occurs in the age of the wide body jet, mass tourism and globalisation.

    To illustrate, I’ll tell a true story. My old man had an English mate who came out in the fifties as a working class ten pound Pom, an assisted passage via ship and a three week journey. Before he left to come to NZ he and his three best mates went down to the local pub and had a going away drink. He got here as a lad in his early twenties, secured a job on the wharf in Napier, married a local girl, had some kids and migrated into the Kiwi middle class. Eventually, after forty years and now retired, he went back to his old home town. Having long lost touch with his mates he went to his old local pub. There sitting at exactly the same table were his old mates. He walked up to them, and one said “‘ere, where you been then?”

    Now that is a fair dinkum story my Dad liked to tell as a contemptuous illustration of the backward, innate conservatism of the English (I suspect it was more like British humour). But it also neatly illustrates how total immigration was right up to the 1980s. You left, and you were gone forever. Letters (that took weeks) and the excitement of the very infrequent, expensive, long distance, operator assisted call was all there was. Until the 1980s, you had no choice but assimilation. Be you a post-war Dutch or a Pole by the second generation no one spoke the old language anymore and by the third the only thing that distinguished you was your surname and membership of a (heavily diluted) cutural society. Further, this is what most of the locals approvingly thought of as “good” migration. You turned into Kiwis, quick smart.

    Modern immigration has done away with that. Grandparents can Skype their grand kids across the planet every day. You can call home all the time for very little. Air travel back to the homeland is affordable to almost everyone. Assimilation is now not necessary, and if you come from a Muslim society (because that is what this debate is really about, no one cares about immigration by cultural and racial in-groups) with radically different and conservative cultural views on things like the role of women not even desirable. A permanent, non-integrated first generationalism is the new norm. These new migrants NEVER have to integrate culturally or even socially if they are disinclined to.

    And I personally think that is a very worrying thing, yet the liberal middle class gatekeepers refused to even discuss this without howling racism. And the consequence of that arrogance has been the rise of the anti-immigration right.

    • Ad 4.1

      I sure ain’t no immigration expert, but even I can see there’s a difference between assimilation and integration. Assimilation means to me at least to erase and dissolve oneself in to the context. Integration seems to me to mean both the person and the society has some give and take in how they re-frame lives and identities.

      I grew up in a street where there were strong English accents on all three sides of us, but their children had none. There were northern English, Welsh, Scots, and Cornish. Most were older having come after the War.

      It’s a pretty different neighbourhood now.

      • garibaldi 4.1.1

        I think the reason for the resurgent Nationalism in Europe is fully explained in one word…..Islam.

        • Blackcap

          Having lived in Europe between 2006 and 2010, I concur with your synopsis.

        • Skyler

          Yes. Perhaps people are afraid of what history tells us. Cultural and religious differences often inevitably lead to war. As sad as it is, I have to wonder what is really behind the refugee crisis in Burma. It’s predominantly a Buddhist country which is usually a peaceful religion. Perhaps the Buddhists are afraid if the Islamic population grows too much in number, they may eventually be overthrown and slaughtered. Afghanistan, Lebanon…. the war in Yugoslavia. History tells us clashes of culture often follows this path. It would be good as a country if we could discuss this without being branded racist. It’s terribly important. The West is at risk of self destructing with our PC nonsense. How many other cultures and countries now allow this to happen to them? Christians in many countries are being slaughtered but we don’t talk about that.

  5. Bill 5

    The quote that captures the heart of the situation is

    “A steady job previously guaranteed a comfortable life here,” says Haunlieb. “But that’s finished. People have stopped believing they can move up the social ladder.”

    The same holds true of the USA, where people knew that voting for “the establishment” as personified by Clinton, would just mean a continuation of an intergenerational decline in living standards and prospects.

    The same held true in France where all establishment parties got hammered in the polls…or in Canada where Trudeau faked an anti-establishment line to win elections there. (Worth noting that Macron in France and Trudeau in Canada are collapsing in polls now)

    It has held true in the UK too where, when the opportunity has been presented, an “anti-establishment” vote has triumphed and it holds in Spain and Greece where Syrzia and Podemos enjoyed electoral success at the expense of what Gareth Morgan might call “the old establishment parties”.

    The centre (the radical centre that cleaves to a revived 19C Liberalism) is collapsing.

    And that collapse either breaks to the right off the back of xenophobic tosh that old establishment parties lend weight to, or it breaks to a social democratic left off the back of a meaningful critique of the Liberalism that has been foisted on “the west” during the latter decades of the 20C. Funnily enough, the old establishment parties don’t like that critique having oxygen and continually seek to smother it.

    Unfortunately, although this post touches on the root cause of peoples’ unhappiness, it buys into and perpetuates the “blame an immigrant” narrative that both the centre and right, for their own different reasons, would rather promote.

  6. timeforacupoftea 6

    I was overseas and heard from a news source that the NZ Greens Policy on
    1: refugees was just released.
    followed by
    2: METIRIA TUREI’s misdemeanours in her youth,
    I was not sure which of the 2 caused the massive drop in the polls.

    But now reading about the Austrian election results, could it have been the refugee policy ?

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    I think you’ve pretty much nailed why a number of countries are rejecting immigration in spite of apparently adequate economic performance – that the country is making it in some fashion is no relief to the poor, and migrant competition is more consequential the less secure you are.

    The issue of integration is also potentially fraught – if NZ acquires a racially distinct landlord class with a different culture’s values about wealth and poverty that is unlikely to make for happily functioning communities.

  8. miravox 8

    I’m not a political analyst, so this is loaded with ‘I reckons’. But after almost seven years in Vienna, I feel the need to go through this analysis point by point and add my reckons where I think Austria fits in.

    At the outset – It’s terrifying that the FPÖ (sorry, I can’t call it the ‘Freedom’ party so I’ll use the acronym with the ‘F’ standing for that other political F-word) and the ‘former’ neo-nazi Heinz-Christian Strache will be part of the next Austrian government. There is very little doubt about that given the acrimonious breakup of the grand coalition between the conservatives and social democrats. Pre-election reckons are here

    I think you’re right to focus on the economic factors as a root cause for the rise of the right. The conservatives could not use this to beat the SocDems though, because they were part of (and likely a great part of the cause of) the problem. Sebastian Kurz instead created a narrative that he picked up from the FPÖ. It doesn’t mean he believes it, just as John Key didn’t believe it when he said he was working for a ‘brighter future’ for all New Zealanders.

    I also agree with the points you’ve made about the centre-left ideals in Europe (although in Austria’s I suggest that began post-imperial war, rather that post-ww2).

    “So why now are so many exclusionary parties gaining in share and now gaining power?”

    In Austria’s case I reckon a look at the previous election in 2013 is required. The country was dissatisfied with job prospects, although the unemployment rate was only 5.4% (lower than NZs – at around 6% in the same period). But jobs and businesses had to be propped up by government for that to remain.

    Also, Austrians can vote from age 16 and I was shocked (I think it’s fair to say that in NZ we expect most young people to vote left/green) at a University of Vienna analysis to see that over 40 percent of 16-18 voted FPÖ – these voters were without a doubt anti-immigrant – possibly because they were the ones, especially if working class, who felt they had no future – going from school to training course, but no job. This was flagged also at the 2008 election. An analysis found

    that 43% of the 16-29 year olds voted for the FPÖ (25% of the 16-18 year olds). The youngest also quoted the immigration (32.3%) as the main issue in the election, ahead of education (23.7%). According to the polls young people’s mistrust of the traditional political parties [was] still rising.

    People in work may have had fears, but actions were taken to protect their jobs, pay and their working hours.

    “My quick answer is that more and more are viewing foreign immigration as shorthand for globalised trade stealing economic security. More and more voters view un-integrated migrants as standing for destabilisation and economic insecurity.”

    Discussing this with locals, complaints about immigration hark back to the refugee crisis from the break-up of Yugoslavia. Ironically it was the far-right in power 10 years ago that removed the tools of integration for refugees then, and will do the same again now, if they have the chance. There was also talk about the Vienna housing department not dispersing refugees, as they were required to do, and now there are a district that Austrian-born youth feel are no-go zones. They say the youth in these areas don’t speak German and this also ties in with their recreational life e.g. football teams (think Glasgow Rangers & Celtic). I’ve no idea how true this is, but the fact that young people believe it is enough in terms of politics.

    Nowadays the EU freedom of movement policies are a real concern as well. Masses of people from eastern Europe taking low-skilled jobs for (illegally) lower wages than an Austrian ever could and begging gangs – yes, they do exist. Austria is not exactly authoritarian about this and people are upset. The EU has not handled freedom of movement well. If the freedom of capital to move eastwards was more aligned with development needs at the same time as the freedom of movement of people to the west, the results could well have been different. But that’s not how the globalisation we know works.

    In hindsight, I reckon, it would have been better for the left if the conservatives formed a coalition with the FPÖ back then, in 2013 but, to their credit, the conservatives refused to do this. (The SocDems had already stated they would not work with FPÖ). As it was the conservatives got their hands on the economy, unemployment began to rise etc, etc. And then the refugee emergency.

    “A 31 year-old from the further right is now elected to run Austria.
    His People’s Party won 31%, and they will form a coalition with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party who came in second with 26%: 57%. The Austrian Greens are gone, and the old social democrat parties are way down.”

    – Kurz is not from the ‘further right’ he’s a mainstream conservative politician who has co-opted the rhetoric of the far-right. He’s neo-liberal, a smart and experienced political operator and pretty damned sure of himself. Although he probably socially conservative – don’t expect and LBGTQ rights any time soon – I’d liken him more to Macron (who used the language of the left in his campaign) than any of the old far-right Europeans such as Farage or Wilders. Both are young neo-libs and know how to lie and work a crowd. His website – yes he campaigned on his site, not the party site (how Trump-ish huh?), show immigration policies that are not too different from New Zealand’s and would go down well in NZ political discourse – points-based, highly-skilled, not a ‘burden’ on the country.

    – The Greens had a split in their party so that ruined them. Peter Pilz, whose list focuses on corruption is a former Green and is in parliament. The Greens proper took the rest of the split vote, but not quite enough to make it back in.

    – The SocDems are not well down, they are on the same as last election and expected to be ahead of FPÖ after specials are counted – despite being embroiled in a scandal of their own making, which lost them valuable support.

    – FPÖ (as have the conservatives) have also benefited from the collapse of other smaller parties that were around last election, and who had alternative agendas to push (including Stronach’s neo-liberal agenda). Also the FPÖ was (surprisingly) the only party scandal-free this election. It was a pretty filthy election and it’s easy to see that people may have done a pox on both the traditional party houses and gone FPÖ. I’ll be interested to see how many negative choice votes were based on the dirty politics.

    “In 2015, Austria was used as a gateway for nearly 900,000 migrants making their way to Germany.
    In a poll reported in Deutcsche Walle, state broadcaster ORF reported 55% of respondents said that they voted for the OVP (People’s Party) because of their stance on asylum and immigration.
    The threat and its political results is clear.”

    The refugee emergency should not, in my view be the header for this piece of information – the tone is inflammatory and the perspective not quite right in terms of my Austrian experience. I wish these pollsters would separate out the refugee/asylum/immigration views.

    I don’t think New Zealanders quite understand what this movement of people across the continent meant for Austrians, and, acknowledging there are arseholes everywhere, how supportive they generally were (as earlier Balkans, Czech and Hungarian refugees) – and yes! there was a real sense of atonement (for which there can never be enough) for the past among the people we met when we joined the 150,000-person march in Vienna supporting the rights of refugees.

    But after accepting 90,000-odd refugees, the services to support them were not coping and EU countries were not participating in solving the crisis. Sebastian Kurz was the Foreign minister at the time, and he did work to close the Balkan route, and it did feel like a relief.

    Note also when the refugee numbers were cut , that meant a reduction to 37,500 per year, not zero or 1500 or whatever NZ, Australia, UK, US would do (The english-speaking – Canada excepted – world is so holier than thou over this and simply do not have the right to make a judgement, unless they’re also supporting a proportionate increase in their own refugee quotas, imo).

    Anyway, while the conservatives support was waning, Kurz’s personal political capital was rising. When the inevitable implosion of the coalition occurred, he was well-set to shake up Austrian politics.

    “And yet for so many at the core of Europe, European integration and free borders to economic migration really works. To see Europe at work for the “winners” one has only to spend a few days in the triangle made up by the towns of Saarbrucken (Germany), Metz (France), and Luxembourg. Here prosperous citizens of three countries travel freely across all-but-vanished frontiers. People, employment, commodities, and entertainment move easily back and forth among languages and states, seemingly unconscious of the historic tensions and enmities that marked this very region in the quite recent past.”

    I don’t think people here have a problem with the *ahem* right sort of immigrants. Austria has always had a large immigrant population, thanks to its near-Empire (timewise and geographically) past and their response to the aforementioned needs of other European countries suggests they are reasonably tolerant.

    “…Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fuelled the success of far-right parties across Europe.”

    Angela Merkel is clearly not anti-immigrant despite finding multiculturalism problematic. She knows the economic value to Germany, with its falling birth-rate, of immigration and that self-interest played its part in the response to the refugee emergency. I think Kurz is similar – unless he’s planning to reduce the integration services for migrants that he says he is. I have to believe that saying he’s cutting these services is all part of building his credentials; that it won’t happen, given the last time the far-right did this created some of the problems now. I reckon he’ll keep the services, but in-line with his neo-lib credentials, will privatise them.

    “So many Austrians are nonplussed by a hard-right president and government. “Most people just don’t associate the Freedom Party with the far right anymore,” says Günter Haunlieb, a senior director at Gallup International, a leading pollster in Vienna. “The Nazi label doesn’t stick.””

    Yup. The FPÖ has moderated its tone. This was especially clear when they were trying to broaden their base in the presidential election last year – an election that they lost to EU-supporting, former refugee, Green Party leader – Yay Austria!

    “Voters do, however, associate the mainstream parties with the period of economic stagnation that took hold after the global financial crisis of 2008…”

    Yes. This was where the SocDems lost support after 2013 – moving economic policies to the centre with the conservative coalition. They lost a lot of trust, despite beginning to implement and, campaign on, worker-friendly policies now.

    …France’s President Macron stands alone with the E.U. President as seeking greater integration.”

    As I reckoned before, I think Austria will stay a strong EU supporter under Kurz. Hopefully (I can dream) this will lead to a schism with FPÖ and the coalition collapses early, with the public realising they’re living in one of the most equitable societies in the world because of the policies that you mentioned at the top of this piece, and that these are the policies that the SocDems represent.

    “The simple test for the European Union, as it is for any political party is this: you keep fear down and the politics of xenophobia at bay when you consistently deliver the economic goods.”

    If that was the only thing that mattered, Austria would have voted SocDem, who ran a campaign on traditional left-ist working class-based policies, a la Jeremy Corbyn.

    And to finish on the refugee/immigration thing… It’s worth noting also that Vienna and Burgenland remain social democratic states. Although Burgenland’s majority decreased, Vienna’s support for social democrats actually increased by over 3% (as always, local conditions apply in those results). Why is it worth noting? Because the Balkans refugee route went through Burgenland to Vienna. (Refugee routes avoided Hungary went through states in the south that were not SocDem before and after the crisis).

    More localised research also supports the hypothesis that exposure to refugees decrease support for the FPÖ in an analysis of the 2015 state election exit poll data it was found that

    a positive effect on the optimism in the population that the integration of refugees can be managed.

    If it was all about immigration these states would have had much lower SocDem votes. I suggest, given the Viennese election results, that a similar effect occurs when economic migrants are integrated into the society. A left-ist government, that worked from this point of view, rather than ditching support for immigration, may have a policy platform that is both economically useful, ethical, and acceptable.

    • Ad 8.1

      Lovely detailed response and great to hear from someone with long term experience of the situation on the ground.

      • miravox 8.1.1

        Thanks Ad…

        The first move has been played – a big oops for the Eurosceptics. As expected Kurz wasn’t saying what people thought they heard.

        “It is clear to me that Austria must play an important role within the European Union and when we are pro-European, we should not only stand for Europe but be an especially active participant in Europe,” the 31-year-old conservative “whizz-kid” said.

        “This is clearly what I will do in the coming years,” he added.

        FPÖ won’t be happy.

    • Foreign waka 8.2

      Thank you for providing such extensive explanation of the political landscape of Austria.
      May I add that, also from personal experience, that Vienna in particular is coping with an increased influx of criminals that are organized and know how to drain the social system to the disadvantage of the now increasingly retiring masses. One has to understand that the social fund is self supporting, in other words similar like Kiwi saver, only compulsory and one only gets what has been put in. However, this fund is being now used to support the refugees and social immigrants which leads to enormous resentment, especially if the entitlements are cut to do this. There are children who have to support the elderly because there is not enough money paid out under that scheme. The injustice is felt in some quarters with profound anger.
      As you mentioned, there are whole districts that not one of the locals wants to enter. It becomes therefore a divided city.
      Brutal attacks of the common variety is another issue the locals have to deal with. Example: Not so long ago 2 women were going to work early in the morning and were attacked by young men that on investigation were refugees. One of the women died because the attack was so vicious. No reason why, just hate.
      The counties have started to reduce the social welfare given so freely (approx in NZ $ 2800 per month per person) but Vienna hasn’t. So naturally all the emigrants ascended on the capital. So despite being generous and forgetful – Austrians are known for being vocal but settle to any change of circumstance given some time – the situation has come to a head and the vote shows the discontent and betrayal the population feels.
      Unlike you, having high hopes, I am not so positive and belief that the FPO will actually be a lasting partner if the situation for the locals is not improved.
      And additionally, Vienna has the Bundeswahlen in a few months and will for sure vote OVP. So the capital will join in the same overall tenor of the situation.
      The real sad part is that the majority of the refugees are in dire need for assistance and this right of survival is being negated by those who take advantage and introduce polarization and criminality.
      NZ has the advantage that no one can just swim here, but Europe’s borders have until recently not been policed. This stupidity is now coming home to roost.

      • miravox 8.2.1

        I love your description of Austrians as “known for being vocal but settle to any change of circumstance given some time”. This is exactly our thoughts too.

        I hear what your saying about Vienna’s problems – though another part is that some other states (just like the other European countries) have refused to help with refugee resettlement.

        I think the partnership between ÖVP and FPÖ would last if Kurz was saying what he really believed, I just don’t think he is. But time will tell.

        I guess I hope they don’t last, partly because integration requires exactly the opposite to what these two parties are planning – as the results of the far-right’s last term in government shows.

        It’s my last day living here today. It’s been such a privilege to have the chance to get to know your country. I’ll miss it immensely.

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