It reported that the right-wing Freedom Party, which rules the party as part of a coalition with the Austrian People’s Party, has claimed to have received a list of Turkish voters which could contain tens of thousands of illegal dual nationals.
Eighty-five people have already had their citizenship revoked and another 18 thousand potential cases are under investigation. Austria does not allow dual-nationality for its citizens. Sputnik discussed this issue with Reinhold Gaertner, a political science professor at Innsbruck University.
Sputnik: In your opinion, what prompted this investigation into dual-citizenship cases in Austria?
Reinhold Gaertner: The direct reason was the referendum on the Turkish Constitution in 2017, Turks abroad could take part in this referendum and so did thousands of them in Austria, Germany and in other countries. During the election campaign, Erdogan wanted to hold pre-election parties in foreign countries, so in Austria as well, and after that the list of names was leaked from the Freedom Party to authorities and the origin of this list was unknown and the list is not really reliable, and many of those on the list didn't have dual citizenship.
Sputnik: So that's basically what caused this crackdown. Do other countries in Europe face similar problems?
Reinhold Gaertner: I do not think so, because other countries leaders are not that much involved in their communities abroad, and they don't stage election campaigns in foreign countries, so I don't think that other countries in Europe will face similar problems.
Sputnik: You said that you feel that this leaked information about this list that was leaked with unclearly proven information was responsible for the Austrian authorities specifically targeting Turkish Austrians. Was there anything else that could've affected that decision?
Reinhold Gaertner: I would say that there is widespread xenophobia in Austria and prejudice that is directed especially towards people with a Turkish ethnic background. There are partly historical reasons, which go back to the conflict between the Austrian monarchy at the Ottoman Empire in previous centuries, and it's also the conflict between Christians and Islam.
Sputnik: Do you think there could be other communities that are in danger of being affected by this xenophobic sentiment?
Reinhold Gaertner: I don't think so; all in all there is only a very small group with dual citizenship in Austria. Moreover, there are quite a few legal problems in executing the withdrawal of Austrian citizenship once you've got it. The attempt of withdrawing citizenship from Turks had much to do with symbolic politics. I suppose that this topic will cool down within a short period of time.
Sputnik: So you don't think that Austria is prepared to revoke citizenship from a significant number of Turkish citizens?
Reinhold Gaertner: No, I don't think that they will.
Sputnik: Can you tell us legally though, is it forbidden to have dual citizenship in Austria? And what is the official government stance on dual citizenship?
Reinhold Gaertner: Well basically it's not allowed to have dual citizenship but we have a few thousand cases with dual citizenship. There are some exceptions from the law, for instance, if you have interest in both countries, in the country of origin and in Austria, but it's not the regular case to have dual citizenship. I would say that while these policies could lead to a further separation and a split within Austrian society if it's followed that way, but I don't think it will last for a long time, it will cool down I would say.
Sputnik: When we talk about this dual citizenship being forbidden, there's different ways that countries deal with this. Some countries feel that if you take Austrian citizenship, for instance, that you must revoke, you must personally say that you are giving up your other citizenship. In some cases there are countries that consider you their citizen regardless of what you personally do if you were born in the country. Is there any difference in the way that people got their Austrian citizenship or in the way they got their Turkish citizenship, because there's usually two basis, there is the 'jus sanguinis', the right of blood, and then there is the 'jus soli' which is based on the right of born on the land, is there any difference between that?
Reinhold Gaertner: In Austria we have the 'jus sanguinis', the first case, children born in Austria get the citizenship of their parents or their mother, and not automatically Austrian citizenship, so we've got some 200,000 people here who were born Austria but don't have Austrian citizenship. If you ask for Austrian citizenship you have to give back the other citizenship, but if the country doesn't take it back there are some exceptions; it's quite a difficult law, this citizenship law in Austria.
Sputnik: What about Austrian citizens that are born on Turkish land, there must be a number of Austrians who work either for the government or other purposes in Turkey?
Reinhold Gaertner: Austrians born abroad get Austrian citizenship. In some cases, if the country has 'jus soli' they get the citizenship of the country they were born in.
Sputnik: So how many people could possibly, potentially be affected if they were to be targeted and if this was brought to fruition?
Reinhold Gaertner: It could be a few thousand, I don't think very many; all in all, we have about 50,000 people with dual citizenship, but some of them are older people and in previous times it was easier to get dual citizenship, so it's not really many people.
Sputnik: What could be the consequences of such a policy for those communities in Austria, is there any fear? I can imagine the communities are quite upset by this or worried, is there a fear of some kind of a witch-hunt?
Reinhold Gaertner: Well I would say it's something like that. I think these policies might lead to a split within Austrian society, but that fits exactly with the government's right-wing policy of segregation, so I would say it's deliberately done by this government to increase the split within Austrian society.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.