WRONG SKILLS OR WRONG SKIN?
“No one has to live out their days in Rohrbach,” headlined the daily Der Standard (06.02.19). How the 2,400 citizens of this pleasant little border town felt is not recorded – but it points up a truism of the Austrian labor market: Vienna’s unemployed are often reluctant to move to the provinces.
But with 10.4% out of work, Vienna’s Employment Service (AMS) has a special program to put people into jobs in other parts of the country. Good idea, but it’s not working: 25,500 applied; only 144 hired.
Part of the problem was cultural: Most job seekers have a migrant background, typically Afghans, Syrians and Balkan. Some are reluctant to leave their comfort zones, but many are turned down by anti-migrant prejudice.
Vienna AMS Director Petra Draxl described a case where “the staff refused to work with him because of his nationality” – a case of “If Ali comes instead of Franzi,” wrote Der Standard.
Do we really want to hear from showbiz celebrities about the burning political issues of the day? Perhaps, at least from the actors whose performances stamp them as “serious.” Here, Vienna’s Christoph Waltz certainly qualifies, and has no qualms about speaking out. In a recent interview with the Austrian daily Der Standard, he launched back into the (undeniable) follies of Britain’s Brexit Shlemozzel: “Will the clowns who triggered it ever take responsibility?” he wondered. He had no problem filling in names, for example: Nigel Farage, “the head rat,” leaving the sinking ship. He may be right, but is an Austro-German actor really in the right place to help Theresa May out of her own Made in England rat trap?
Austrian Politics, European Elections
Politics is often more about people than policy, but with the European Union (EU) elections due in May the people are hardly visible. Austria’s political parties are fielding lack-luster has-beens with little popular awareness: Two-thirds of voters cannot even name the candidate for their party of choice.
Polls show voting intentions broadly following the present party standing, but without the personality bonus of Sebastian Kurz, the centrist ÖVP is with 34% ahead of the SPÖ with 26%. The populist FPÖ trails at 23% and the freshly minted Neos show a bouncy 7%. At the bottom of the heap are the fragmented Green parties, together about 8%. Most media attention has been on the newest candidate, Johannes Voggenhuber for Peter Pilz’s storm-damaged Green splinter group, Jetzt. Voggenhuber is a battle-hardened Green warrior and his return to the stage promises some robust rivalry for the still considerable Green potential. There are also new groups like the pan-European party Volt, who will run on one political program across the continent and aims to collect the necessary 2,600 signatures so it can stand for election in Austria.
The real theater for political groupies will be the showdown between the coalition partners, ÖVP and FPÖ. As Renate Kromp commented in the weeklyNews, the carefully constructed show of harmony in daily business will count for little in the EU contest: “On the one side the noble pro-Europeans and on the other the lowering thugs of the anti-EU Fraktion.” A duel is always about people.
Numbers, Bloody Numbers
The raw statistics tell an ugly story: 17 women murdered in 2015, rising every year to 41 in 2018. And by Valentine’s Day 2019, already seven women killed – on track for another grisly record. Nearly all were“Beziehungstragödien” (relationship tragedies), the murderer a husband or lover, current or ex. It’s been a feast for the Boulevard press: blood and bullets, jealous men and “disobedient” women, weeping children and stunned neighbours. The killing just before Valentine’s Day epitomized the toxic dynamic: A 53-year-old man left his wife and family for an attractive young waitress, who then leaves him and he goes into meltdown. He follows her into the street and fires three shots, two into her head, the third into his own. The bigger- picture statistics take on an even uglier, political shape. Of the eleven homicides so far this year, eight of the killers were migrants and all were men, reported the daily redtop Österreich. Numbers fluctuate, with 89 perpetrators in 2017, of which 76 were native Austrians and 13 foreigners, and a total of 76 murders in Austria, 41 of which were com-mitted by Austrians and 35 by foreigners. Of those, 7 perpetra- tors each came from Serbia and Kosovo, followed by Slovakia with 4, Croatia with 3 and Ger- many, Turkey, Afghanistan and Russia with 2 each. Last year, the government also cut funding for women’s organizations and safe houses, amid much criticism. It seems women’s safety is still only an issue when it comes to political point scoring.
ARE YOU AN EU CITIZEN LIVING IN AUSTRIA?
Then you can vote in the European elections, too – and that includes Britons, no matter how Brexit plays out. If you are a citizen of one of the 28 EU member countries, have your Hauptwohnsitz (main residence) in Austria, and are 16 years or older on election day – May 26, 2019 – you can register on Austria’s European electoral voter list!
This is pretty easy and straightforward: Just fill out a short form – the “Application for entry into the register of EU voters”– and send it via email to the MA 62 (if you live in Vienna) or take it to your local Gemeindeamt (municipality). Once registered, the Austrian electoral authorities will mail you further information on where and when to vote on the postal way.
To learn more or obtain a translated form, you can visit the webpage Vote4Europe.com, which aims to help EU citizens in Austria register and, at the time of writing, is available in eight European languages.
Forget the refugees, the latest invaders to threaten Vienna’s hapless citizens are brown and furry. “Danger to life and limb for cyclists and walkers…” screamed the daily Österreich on February 4. Well, sort of. A hundred years ago, beavers had been eradicated from the city. But then, in the 1970s, around 40 animals were resettled. The population of cuddly residents has now stabilized at fewer than 250, mainly along the Alte Donau, the wetlands in the Prater park and the Danube Canal. Not enough to cause a housing shortage, but they do manage to fell 50 trees a year. Just learn Beaverish for “timber!” and you should be safe.