by Andrea Heigl
When discussing looming elections or referendums with friends, there is a group of people who can only shrug their shoulders at the subject. Many people in Austria cannot make such choices, they are, in fact, not allowed to choose – no citizenship, no right to vote, it’s as simple as that. In Vienna alone, that’s one in five persons aged over 16 years.
Immigrants must learn German and pay taxes, but at the same time they are denied many elementary rights. Because of fear of populist reaction? Or because citizenship should be made to look more attractive, as the Integration State Secretary [Sebastian Kurz] argues? The much-vaunted desire for [political] participation doesn’t happen that way; rather the level of frustration increases in those who are not allowed to vote.
by Edith Meinhart
Austria makes things harder for prospective citizens than any other country in Europe. Every few years the hurdles are set ever higher, and the consequences are visible eventually in the statistical data: the number of naturalisations fell from about 45,000 in 2003 to 7,000 last year .
Meanwhile, there are a million non-Austrians living in the country, 40 per cent of them EU citizens, who are at least allowed to vote in local and EU elections; all the others are shut out of the polls. [...]