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Austria/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

In 1976 the federal government passed a new Law on the Rights of Indigenous Ethnic Minorities in Austria, the Volksgruppengesetz (Ethnic Groups Act), which significantly curtailed the rights granted in Article°7 of the 1955 State Treaty. Five groups – later extended to six – were recognised as ethnic minorities in different parts of Austria: Slovenes (in Carinthia and Styria), the Croats (in Burgenland), the Hungarians (in Burgenland and Vienna), the Czechs and Slovaks (in Vienna). In 1992, the Roma (in all nine Austrian Bundesländer) became the latest ethnic minority group to be recognised. There is also an ongoing debate among the recognised ethnic groups over the perception that the provisions meant to safeguard their cultural heritage are not being properly applied and executed.

According to data from Statistik Austria the breakdown of Austrian ethnic minorities (Volksgruppe) at the beginning of 2015 was: Slovenes 21 000; Burgenland-Croats ca. 40–50 000 (estimated by the Austrian Centre for Ethnic Groups – ÖsterreichischesVolksgruppenzentrum), and Hungarians 61 000, Czechs 40 000, Slovaks 35 000. There are no valid data for Roma in Austria; Cautious estimates assume that there are some 25 000 autochthonous Roma in Austria, the project [romani] presented by the University of Graz estimates up to 50 000 persons.

About 1.15 million people with a foreign nationality are living in Austria in 2015 (13.3% of the total population). Almost half of the non-Austrian nationals come from the European Union, more than 240 000 from the 14 "old" EU Member States (joining the EU before 2001). 170 000 of those are Germans, who form the biggest group of foreigners in Austria now (15% of all foreigners). There are 300 000 people from one of the 13 countries that joined the EU in 2004, most of them from Romania (73 000). Almost 9 000 people are nationals of other European states, of Switzerland or of EU Member States and associated small states. The remaining 560 000 people are third-country nationals, with Turks (115 000) as the biggest group, followed by Serbs (114 000) and citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina (90 000). Among people with a non-European nationality the Asians form the biggest group (98 000).

As much as many other European countries, Austria is the destination of thousands of refugees from the war zones, primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In the first half of 2015 the number of asylum applications has risen by more than 200% from 9 000 to more than 28 000; the rate of approval is about 39%. Considering the large number of people seeking help, policy making and administration are facing great challenges regarding the social and cultural integration of these people. The Division for Integration of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs is responsible for these tasks. The National Action Plan for Integration (NAP.I) combines all political integration measures and initiatives of the State, Federal governments and local authorities as well as the social partners (see chapter 4.2.7).

The Federal Chancellery's department for the Volksgruppengesetz (Ethnic Groups Act, 2000 anchored in the constitution (Article 8, para.2) as a defining national objective) is responsible for providing support for cultural activities of ethnic minority groups. Essentially, associations, foundations and funds are entitled to apply for funding for projects specific to ethnic groups, as well as churches and religious communities and their institutions. At EUR 3.9 million, the budget for ethnic groups has remained almost the same since 1995. 

In 2001, the government signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In 2006, Austria signed the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Since 2004, "ARGE Cultural Diversity" has existed, in which, alongside members of the Austrian UNESCO Commission, representatives from cultural interest groups and cultural organisations, from NGOs, experts in cultural policy research and from the ministries and the federal provinces, analyse the implementation of the convention in Austria.

The Vienna City Council's special department for integration and diversity (MA 17) is responsible for monitoring the integration of immigrants and supporting municipal institutions in the development of diversity management. The integration and diversity monitoring in Vienna started in 2008. Three reports have been published so far (2010, 2012 and 2014), making visible changes, transformations, developments and challenges for society, policy, politics and administration.

Chapter published: 02-02-2016

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