Vienna Integration Council: “Massively facilitate access to citizenship”

Wien. The restrictive citizenship law is a thorn in the side of the Vienna Integration Council. The body set up by Deputy Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr (Neos) identifies a democratic deficit and criticizes the fact that more than a third of Vienna’s resident population is excluded from the right to vote. For example, it calls for children born here to be automatically granted citizenship if one of their parents has been legally resident in Austria for five years. In the last 20 years, the naturalization rate in Vienna has fallen sharply in comparison to other European countries, despite population growth due to immigration. For naturalization in Austria, ten years of legal and uninterrupted residence and proof of high financial means – a sufficiently secure livelihood – are required, among other things. The Integration Council is calling for shorter residence periods, lowering income hurdles and accepting dual citizenship. In Vienna, among other things, he calls for more resources for the Department for Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35), which should lead to more efficient and transparent procedures.

Raab rejects the request

Council member and migration researcher Rainer Bauböck complained in a broadcast that the democracy was less representative due to the restrictive law: “Younger, lower-income and urban population groups do not have the political weight that corresponds to their share of the population. Although Vienna has more inhabitants than Lower Austria, it has fewer seats in Parliament because the distribution of seats depends on the number of citizens.”

The current situation is also making the integration process more difficult. Because “naturalization acts as a catalyst for social integration and goes hand in hand with higher income, less unemployment, improved living conditions and better educational opportunities for children,” says integration council member and political scientist Gerd Valchars. The conditions for acquiring citizenship would represent “high, sometimes insurmountable hurdles” for many of those affected. “The Citizenship Act is no longer up-to-date and leads to unbelievable delays in the processing of applications,” said Deputy Mayor and Integration City Councilor Wiederkehr.

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Integration Minister Susanne Raab (ÖVP) rejects the demands for “easier and automatic obtaining” of citizenship. This is a “high good” and “linked to a longer stay, integration requirements and economic self-sustainability for good reasons,” she said in a statement. She sees a risk for the welfare state and new migration flows in a softening. Integration problems would not disappear into thin air by giving people citizenship, Raab called on the City of Vienna to “open your eyes, openly address integration issues and finally take action in the districts”.

Freedom Places “Provocation”

Vienna’s ÖVP chairman Karl Mahrer shares this assessment. “The citizenship law must not be shaken,” he insisted in a press release. The granting of citizenship should be “the conclusion of a successful integration process and not the beginning.” ÖVP Vienna integration spokeswoman Caroline Hungerländer initially calls for data security. Because the city “to this day has no idea how many people could actually apply for citizenship and why they still don’t do it”.

The Liberals also take this line. After the Turkish celebrations in Favoriten after the presidential election in Turkey, the Viennese head of state Dominik Nepp saw the demand for easier access to citizenship as a “special class provocation”. Apparently, the SPÖ and Neos were trying to get cheap votes from criminal social migrants who were unwilling to integrate and were naturalised. The FPÖ calls for the granting of citizenship to non-Europeans to be suspended. (APA, May 31, 2023)

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2023-06-01 20:43:16