Online information about local laws and bureaucratic procedures is essential to modern society and standard in most countries, but it seems Austria has decided to offer this information in German only – at least for now.
The removal of information in English occurred when the now-deposed government of the conservative ÖVP and far-right FPÖ launched oesterreich.gv.at in 2019, incorporating content from help.gv.at in hopes that the new unified system would allow Austrian citizens get better assistance. The content was merged, Federal Minister Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl told public broadcaster ORF, to avoid “migration difficulties and multiple entries”.
But most English translations were removed in the process, public broadcaster ORF reported. The online service help.gv.at, in German and English, had been launched in 1997 to assist citizens and foreigners alike, providing simplified and essential information on everything from biking in the city to building a house. Now those who click on the “EN” translation button will be re-routed to an overview page on europa.eu, a Europe-wide platform to assist with citizen related topics.
English? Nein danke!
Much of the Austria-specific information “is still available via the detour through Brussels,” ORF said, but “is cumbersome to find,” involving clicking through each topic until an option for national information appears. Moreover, the EU will stop hosting any country-specific data in 2020 and instead link back to the respective country’s websites.
The suspicion in Brussels, reports ORF, is that Austria is waiting for the EU to pick up the tab for translation, which it is slated to do some time after 2021. Until then, non-German speakers appear to be out of luck.
Anti-immigrant policies, some considered scandalous, had characterized the Black and Blue government. But the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) vehemently denied any political effort to keep information from asylum seekers and other third-country nationals.
Over 40 percent of the Viennese population have a migration background, according to 2018 figures from MA23, the municipal department for economy, labor and statistics. The city is home to nearly 10,000 diplomats and international civil servants. Foreign residents pay taxes and social security and have access to a range of social, health and educational services. The lack of English information seems poised to leave many newcomers in the lurch.