4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
In Austria "intercultural dialogue" is often used in context with external relations, events, co-operation projects etc. (not only in the field of culture). Within Austria, migration and integration issues are complex and often conflict-laden: Different actors (the state, Bundesländer, local level, but also NGOs), with divergent interests, have so far made a cohesive, consensus-based integration and migration policy difficult.
Even though Austria is an "immigration country", the immigration and integration policy is very restrictive. On May 2012, 11.5% of the resident population were foreigners (or 970 541). 30.5% or 296 377 came from the countries of the former Yugoslavia (excepting Slovenia); the majority from Serbia, Montenegro and from Bosnia and Herzegovina. German nationals make up the second-largest group (15.8% or 153 491), followed by Turkish citizens (114 011). The Bundesländer (federal provinces) of Vienna (22.3%), Vorarlberg (13.4%), Salzburg (13%) and Tyrol (11.5%) have the highest proportion of foreigners. If one looks at the population figures for people with an immigration background as a whole, the figures are still higer: 18.9% of the population as a whole and even 38.8% in Vienna are first or second generation immigrants.
The law and its application distinguish sharply between citizens of Austria / the EU on the one hand and those of third countries on the other, which makes social and political integration more difficult. A number of measures have attracted considerable criticism from human rights organisations and other NGOs, such as the tightening of residence permits in the context of the Aliens' Rights Act. In 2006 and 2011 the Aliens' Rights Act was sharpened, initially through the limitation of transition times for asylum procedures. In principle, knowledge of German was demanded before immigration. Since 2011, under the terms of the integration agreement, foreigners already living in Austria have had to prove their German language competence after two years instead of the previous five years. Applicants for asylum are obliged to remain in first-contact centres until their grounds for claiming asylum have been checked. In July 2011, Austria introduced a "Red-White-Red Card" with a points system for immigrants. The aim is to facilitate controlled and long-term immigration to Austria for qualified workers and their families from third countries on the basis of individual and labour-market policy criteria. The criteria are qualification, professional experience, age, language competence, a suitable job offer and minimum payment. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection estimated 8 000 card-holders per year; by the end of July 2012, however, only 1 520 cards had been issued, which is significantly less than expected – and feared in some quarters. Immigrants with the card system have come mainly from the US, Croatia and Russia.
Generally, immigrants from non-EU-countries are disadvantaged in the labour market as well as within the Austrian education system. At the same time, they are at double the risk of poverty as the rest of the population. Above and beyond this, public debates on immigration questions at the political level and in media are often characterised by xenophobic undertones.
According to the second "Austrian report on migration and integration" (2007, the next is expected in 2012), there are too few integration measures, and apart from this the existing ones are not sufficiently coordinated. For this reason, in 2011 a State Secretariat for Integration was established in the Federal Ministry of the Interior with the task of actively addressing the opportunities and challenges of integration and contributing to an objective clarification of the issue.
Concerning the cultural field – apart from individual projects and the stipulation of cultural diversity in strategy papers and laws – there have not been any cohesive programmes linking intercultural dialogue and culture so far: Grants for "multicultural" projects are inter alia given by the different levels of governments (state, Bundesländer and local level). The "promotion of (ethnic) cultural diversity" is one of the government's proposals. It is also an objective of the Styrian and Carinthian Cultural Support Act and also included in cultural strategy papers at the local level (Salzburg and Linz municipalities). Nevertheless, the visibility of migrants as cultural consumers and producers is still low in Austria.
In fact, the essential players here have been primarily smaller initiatives and cultural associations that try to reflect migrant experiences, e.g. the Soho festival in Ottakring, the Moving Cultures festival in Vienna, and NGOs such as "Initiative Minderheiten" (initiative of minorities) that try to give a voice to minorities living in Austria. The free radio stations, institutions such as the MAIZ in Linz and the interest-group for cultural initiatives (IG Kultur) are also active in this field.
The national committee for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID) 2008 consisted of 35 partner institutions (ministries, "social partners" (Sozialpartner) the media and civil society), the national coordination body was the Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture, supported by KulturKontakt Austria. In all, around 2 500 projects were initiated and implemented, above all with schools and institutions of civil society, cultural and adult-education institutions. The evaluation report on the activities of the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue can be found at the homepage of the bmu:kk (see: http://www.bmukk.gv.at/europa/ejid/evaluierungsbericht.xml and chapter 9.1).
In 2008 the initiative "Vielfalter" was initiated by the Intercultural Centre in cooperation with Western Union and with support from the Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture. Since then more than 90 projects by schools, kindergartens, associations and private initiatives for cultural diversity have been supported. AKTION365PLUS, initiated in 2012 by the Verein Wirtschaft für Integration (Business for Integration Association) aims to promote small projects in particular and thereby to support committed people in tackling and implementing their ideas. The fund is open to everyone for projects or product ideas can make a contribution to the improvement of coexistence in Austria.
The awareness of the need to promote intercultural dialogue is growing and there are a number of initiatives to support this. Thus, since 2010 the "Outstanding Artist Award for Intercultural Dialogue" has been awarded for artistic and cultural achievements that contribute to dialogue and the understanding of people from different countries of origin living in Austria. In the current 2011-2014 international culture concept, the Ministry for European and International Affairs puts a thematic emphasis on dialogue between cultures and religions, in particular through the preparation of the annual forum of the "Alliance of Civilizations", which will take place in Vienna in 2013/14.
In 2011 the action "Pimp my Integration" was an initiative of the theatre Garage X in Vienna as the starting pistol for a project series on the issue of migrant mainstreaming, by collecting artistic positions that explore migrant and post-migrant experiences as well as works that portray the current social reality in the intercultural city.