Austrian Foreign Minister and member of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Sebastian Kurz has accused Socialist Party (SPÖ) coalition partner of blocking integration legislation that would ban the full-face Islamic veil.
Mr. Kurz alleged on Wednesday that the SPÖ have been blocking the bill since the summer, reports Kronen Zeitung.
The proposed integration bill has a number of provisions including banning Islamic veils like the niqab and the burqa. The full face covering is an issue of contention in Austria and in neighbouring Germany where parties like the anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) seek to ban it.
German television programme Anne Will was also recently criticised for having a woman with known Islamist sympathies in a full veil on her programme.
Included in the Integration Act is the banning of the distribution of the Koran, and a community work programme for migrants granted asylum – many of whom are unable to find jobs due to either their language proficiency or their basic level of education.
“Migration is changing society,” Kurz said and added that he didn’t understand why there were no provisions to allow asylum seekers to do charitable work, which he feels may better help them integrate into Austrian society.
In addition to the three provisions, the foreign minister also stated that those who reject Austrian values should be subject to a “harsher reaction” which could include loss of social benefits.
SPÖ Secretary Muna Duzdar claimed that the real goal of getting asylum seekers into community service was an attempt at “forced jobs for all”, and that there would be an obligation for asylum seekers unable to find work to enter these positions.
Ms. Duzdar also opposed the burka ban saying that it would only serve to punish Muslim migrant women and that the Integration Act was a failure that didn’t need to be negotiated any further.
Over the past year, Kurz has become a hard-liner on border security and integration. Highly sceptical of the EU-Turkey deal, he opposes Turkish integration into the European Union (EU) calling the Near-Eastern nation “dictatorial”.
He has even proposed an Australian-style system in which migrants are processed in North Africa and islands in the Mediterranean rather than on mainland Europe.
The Austrian presidential election, which is due to take place on December 4, could see a further breakdown between the coalition government as some in the ÖVP like Kurz and Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka have policies closer to those of anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer, who has in turn praised them both.
The SPÖ and the Greens have largely placed their support behind former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen.