Monday, March 06, 2006

Simplistic Xenophobia in Austria

It has to be a source of major embarrasment for the Austrian government that the FPÖ party this week is launching a massive campaign of xenophobia and anti-Muslim and anti-Europe sentiments.

It's part of them trying to get a profile on these issues prior to the national elections this autumn.

There are many strange aspects to the Austrian situation. On the one hand, it's one of the countries where public hostility to European Union enlargement, and in particular to Turkey, is strongest. The two major parties ÖVP and SPÖ are, sorry to say, competing in negativism concerning Turkey. It's only the Greens that dare to think otherwise.

But on the other hand, Austria is one of the countries that has profited the most from membership in the Union and in particular from enlargement.

Austrian exports have been growing by more than 10 % every year for the last decade, the stock markets belong to the best performing in Europe and Austrian companies are selling and exporting all over Central Europe.

Vienna is no longer a city surrounded by barbed wire - it's a metropolis right in the hearth of one of the most expansive economic areas of Europe. You see it and you feel it when you are there.

But still it's possible to wipe up xenophic sentiments. The pictured poster is only one of them at the moment. It's a crude attempt to play on the crudest prejudices. To portray the European Union as a coming islamist alliance threathening the freedom of Austrians is to go rather far...

I am convinced that there are many Austrian that feel positively ashamed.

I do hope that they make their views known - and that it preferably be heard outside their borders too.