One Year of Integration
German language media translated for TVR's Media Monitor
Last month, the Ministry of Interior’s secretariat for integration had its first birthday. How has the country's first secretary for integration, 25-year-old Sebastian Kurz, fared?
The Superintegrator, 11 April
by Ruth Eisenreich
No long-standing integration expert was appointed to handle the complicated, cross-cutting portfolio, but rather a youngster with no experience in the field whatsoever. Instead, Kurz had gained notoriety as head of the People’s Party (ÖVP) youth wing by launching a "sexy-mobile" and the slogan "black makes you sexy" [black is the ÖVP party colour] in the Vienna elections.
A year later, Sebastian Kurz has moved from object of ridicule to media darling…
Kurz has tried to make the debate about immigration more objective. "He has successfully calmed the discussion, and made it less hysterical," says the integration expert Kenan Güngör. For the first time in years, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) no longer has the last word on the issue…
"Achievement" – that’s the favourite word of the ÖVP and also of the integration secretary. But not everyone appreciates his slogan "integration through achievement". "That means immigrants have to prove they are worthy of living here as equal human beings," says Alexander Pollak from the charity SOS Mitmensch.
But Kurz does not want to be understood that way. "I have a broad notion of achievement," he says: it’s about showing effort, not being a high-flyer…
Nevertheless: Since last year, somebody has a clear responsibility for the issue of integration in this country, where previously there was "organised unaccountability," according to Kenan Güngör. A year ago, the realisation dawned on Austria that immigrants don’t go away again. For local circumstances, that’s a landmark achievement.
Integration: Kurz Under Scrutiny, 16 April
by Ulrike Weisser
Political scientist [Sieglinde Rosenberger] views the idea of "integration through achievement" as a step forward. While a cultural take on integration requires a commitment to shared values, a socio-economic focus on education and jobs is more amenable to policy measures.
But researchers highlight an imbalance: Achievement is premised on equal opportunities, but the Migrant Integration Policy Index consistently lists Austria on its last ranks.
"Immigration policy is left untouched," says Rosenberger…As that field is the sole prerogative of the ministry of interior, "integration hurdles are off the agenda."
Rosenberger suspects this is down to party strategy. Splitting the issue between the secretariat and the ministry enables restrictive and liberal approaches to integration to co-exist. This is why the secretariat for integration has taken painstaking care to avoid asylum issues.
The reluctance to accept a broader definition of integration is one of the reasons why many of the measures remain "soft". "There’s a project here, a new regulation there, but hardly any fundamental legislative steps that would lead to a parliamentary debate." That too is institutional: "A secretariat only gives impulses."