SUCCESS STORIES OF RECENT MIGRATORY MOVEMENTS TO VIENNA

“Brunnenmarkt”, street market in Vienna’s 16th district

After the disasters of the first half of the 20th century, First World War, Great Depression, Second World War, disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austro-Fascism and Nazi regime, holocaust and ethnic cleansing, Vienna, the former 2-million multi-ethnic capital of a 50-million peoples’ empire, had turned into a provincial town, capital of a 7-million country, with a decreasing, rather homogenous population. Since the middle of the 1960s the lack of much needed workforce at the times of the economic boom years led to a change of attitude towards labour migration in Austria. The census of 1961 registered 7,074,000 inhabitants in Austria; 102,000 of them foreigners, most of them German citizens, the lowest number ever.

In 1961 the first recruitments abroad for the construction industry took place. Of the agreed 7,300 persons only 1,800 arrived, mostly from Italy. In 1962 a recruitment agreement with Spain under the fascist regime of Franco was unsuccessful. Between 1962 and 1964 37,000 “guest workers” were invited annually, but those numbers of migratory workers never arrived in Austria. Austria did not seem to be an attractive destination at that time. Finally in 1964 a recruitment agreement was signed with Turkey and an official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Istanbul, which was closed nearly 30 years later in 1993. In 1966 such a recruitment agreement was signed with Yugoslavia, too, together with a social agreement that regulated the claims of the workers with respect to health, accident and pension insurance. An official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Belgrade. In 1969 a similar social agreement was negotiated with Turkey. In general, recruitment offices were of minor importance because most migrants entered Austria via tourist visa and their stay was later legalised after they had worked here for some time. The status of these migratory workers was precarious, as the two following examples show: In 1965 Yugoslav workers at the company Iso-Span in Obertrum, Salzburg, went on strike because they received lower wages than agreed. As a consequence the strikers were taken in custody pending deportation. The same happened in 1966, when Yugoslav workers in a construction company in Admont, Styria, went on strike.

Political crises in neighbouring countries also had an effect on migratory movements in Austria. When the dissatisfaction of the Hungarian population with the Soviet domination culminated in the Hungarian revolution of 1956, approximately 180,000 Hungarians fled to Austria and took residence here temporarily. In 1968 160,000 Czech and Slovak refugees settled in Austria for some time due to the revolution in Prague that was crushed by the Soviets as well. After the military coup-d’état In Turkey in 1980 – one of several coup-d’ètats there – the Turkish refugees in Austria received “guest worker” status and that’s why their exact number is not known. When in 1980 martial law was imposed on Poland, more than 35,000 Polish refugees came to Austria, most of which remained here permanently. When in 1991 the war in Yugoslavia started Austria welcomed approximately 90,000 refugees from ex-Yugoslavia over the next four years.

CENTRAL EUROPE AND THE FUTURE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION IN THE 21st CENTURY

Debrecen, Hungary, University

In 2018 Jaguar Land Rover ((JLR) opened a new plant with 640 robots on a former farmland in Nitra in western Slovakia. The robots together with 2,800 workers can assemble a Land Rover Discovery every two minutes. JLR was just another carmaker to come to Slovakia. VW arrived in 1991, followed by Kia and PSA. These firms together turn out over one million cars annually; more per head of population than any other country. Nitra is close to the motorway and Slovakia has an impressive supply chain with more than 300 factories making car parts. This spoke for Slovakia. The JLR factory gives a fair picture of Slovakia’s, and more broadly Central Europe’s model of economic development. First, it was built with foreign capital and largely by foreign contractors. Membership in the EU has facilitated the flow of capital from the western members to the eastern ones. Second, the economy of Central Europe depends on customers in economies to the west purchasing goods made relatively cheaply in the hinterland. Third, government support was essential for this economic take off. Government subsidies luring foreign companies into the country are common in Central Europe. Investors flock to special economic zones across the region, attracted by tax advantages. Furthermore EU funds have boosted investment in infrastructure that appeals to foreign investors like, road and rail. Even in Poland, the region’s biggest and most diversified economy, these EU funds matter: by 2022 they will make up 22 per cent of public spending each year.

This foreign-led development model has had much success. Countries from the Baltic states in the north to littoral Black Sea states have become considerably richer over the last two decades. GDP per person in the Czech Republic is now close to Spain. Bulgaria and Romania are much poorer in terms of GDP, but managing to win investment and to grow, too. The European Commission tracks the progress of five EU members immediately east of Germany and Austria, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, compared with a group of four western frontier EU countries, namely Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. In 1995 the average GDP per person at purchasing power parity was around 55 per cent lower in the five Central European countries than in the western frontier countries. By 2016 the difference had shrunk to 39 per cent. Average incomes in the five countries are now equal to those in Portugal and far above those in Greece, of course also due to the financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis since 2008. Of all the Central European countries Slovakia saw the most dramatic gains.

But the challenge for these countries, as for any hinterland reliant on supplying labour to produce goods for richer neighbours, is to keep closing the income gap. The next step of economic development is going to be harder, requiring more productive firms, more private capital and more skilled labour. The region was not that hit by the financial crisis and is growing strongly once again. The IMF expects these countries to expand nearly twice as fast as Western Europe and this expansion looks more sustainable than the one that ended with the financial crisis in 2008. Back then cheap foreign loans, including Swiss franc mortgages taken out by individual households had boosted consumption but became hard to pay back. Nowadays banks are in better shape and consumption is less supported by debt and more by rising incomes. Despite nationalistic policies by populist governments in some countries foreign companies are not retreating. Corruption and some political instability seem not to deter investors as long as other economic conditions are beneficial. Building firms are doing particularly well. Construction activity in the region has typically grown twice as fast as GDP in recent years. Central Europe accounts for a fifth of Strabag’s – Austria’s biggest construction company – business. Business in Poland has gone so well that Strabag is branching out from EU-funded infrastructure into hotels, shopping centres and office blocks. Wienerberger, an Austrian building-materials supplier, has 64 plants across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), including the ones in Austria and Turkey. 30 per cent in the region are not connected to a sewer system, compared with 5 per cent in Western Europe, which means big business for the firm. Subsidies for better housing, for instance in Hungary, have meant a boom in brick sales.

Services are playing a bigger part in this expansion in Central Europe than in the pre-crisis boom. This means that also white-collar work is doing well. Western banks are moving back-office jobs east to pleasant and affordable spots such as Krakow. McKinsey has 1,000 analysts in Poznan in central Poland, serving clients world-wide. Brexit is moving some mid-level finance jobs away from London as well. Erste Bank, an Austrian bank with 16 million customers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Turkey, expects banking in the region to grow faster than in Western Europe for many years to come. Central Europe has also transformed Vienna Insurance Group, a nearly 200-year old Austrian institution. Its 21 companies across CEE now provide half of all VIG’s premiums and profits because as income rises, spending on insurance increases, too. So it seems that Central European economies are well set for sustainable economic growth. Yet there are still three reasons for worries, namely a lack of innovation in local firms, a coming demographic squeeze and an over-dependence on foreigners, especially Germans, to drive development.

THE BALKANS & THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE AROUND 1914

Novi Sad, Serbia

In the context of World War I the marginalization of the Serbian and thereby of the larger Balkan dimension already began during the July crisis itself. Serbia and its actions occupied a subordinate place. Furthermore the fact that Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia emerged as one of the victor states of the war seemed implicitly to vindicate the act of the murder of the Austro-Hungarian crown prince and his wife on 28 June 2014. In an era when the national idea was still full of promise, there was sympathy with south Slav nationalism and little affection for the ponderous multinational commonwealth of the Habsburg Empire. But our moral compass has shifted by now. The Yugoslav wars of the 1990s have reminded us of the lethality of Balkan nationalism. Since Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo, it has become harder to think of Serbia as the mere object or victim of great power politics and easier to conceive of Serbian nationalism as a historical force in its own right. From the perspective of today’s European Union we are inclined to look more sympathetically on the vanished imperial patchwork of Habsburg Austro-Hungary. Putting Sarajevo and the Balkans back at the centre of the outbreak of World War I does not mean demonizing the Balkans or their politicians. We need to understand the July crisis of 1914 as a complex event. Far from being inevitable this war was in fact inconceivable for most Europeans of the time, at least until it actually happened. So the conflict was not the consequence of a long-run deterioration, but of short-term shocks with the Balkans at the centre.

THE BALKANS: ANCIENT TRADITIONS & SOCIAL STRUCTURES

Belgrade, capital city of Serbia

On the Balkans nationalism has been a significant characteristic of political and social life since the 19th century. There was an ethnic nationalism in former Yugoslavia that is still very powerful and which has to be differentiated from a bourgeois or political nationalism. Bourgeois nationalism is based on the idea of common blood relations, common culture and excludes any kind of multiculturalism. The concept of political nationalism is based on a common territory and the acceptance of the laws in this territory. In contrast ethnic nationalism is founded on myths and legends of a nation that is God-sent. Even nowadays these myths dominate public communication in the Balkans. The fascination with such myths concerning their own nation which are propagated and perpetuated by autocratic and democratic leaders alike is the reason why the people in these countries are often prevented from seeing  future potential and realising it. One famous example is the “Kosovo myth”. The Serbian historian Popovic already stated in 1976 that that was a secondary artificial myth developed by politicians from folklore legend dealing with the historical battle between Turks and Serbs on the Kosovo Polje in 1389. The rather irrelevant defeat escalated in the historical memory of the Serbs to a catastrophe and was scandalously distorted.

 

The various national movements in the Southern Slavonic countries concerned themselves thoroughly with their respective village cultures. In them they sought to find their origins in a world of rapid modernisation. This resulted in a romantic transfiguration and idealisation of rural or village value patterns. These patterns were supposed to be “characteristic” of the nation and should serve as models. The processes of industrialisation and urbanisation fundamentally changed and influenced the existing traditional society. In spite of the growing economic and social differences between the urban and the rural world the influence of the village culture in the development of the nation and society must not be underestimated. These “traditional” values had persevered despite the processes of modernisation in the socialist society of former Yugoslavia. In the Balkans rural traditions had their impact on life in the cities and shaped the cities rather than the other way round. Mass migration to cities led to the urbanisation of the villages, but also to the ruralisation of the cities. Almost all Serbian cities for example, due to centuries under Turkish domination, developed only in the last 150 years from small villages and market communities. Until the 20th century there existed no specific Serbian urban tradition whatsoever. The village roots remained strong, mutual obligations between the family in the city and the kin in the country further strengthened these ties. Children often still spend their holidays in the country and village children move in with their relatives in the city for higher education. The process of urbanisation began very late in former Yugoslavia. In the beginning of the 20th century the urban populations began to grow and then especially after World War II.

ROMA MUSLIMS ON THE BALKANS PENINSULA

The first arrival of Roma Muslims on the Balkans is connected to the Ottoman invasion and the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the region during the 14th and 15th century. Some of the Roma Muslims were directly involved in the conquest by participating in auxiliary army units or as craftsmen serving the army. At that time there was already a Roma population on the Balkans who had settled there earlier. The Ottoman Empire dominated the Balkans for five centuries and made a distinct impression on the culture and history of the region. Based on the information from the corpus of law and regulations relating to the population in the province of Rumelia, covering most of the Balkans, from 1475, it is clear that all Roma, whether Muslim or Christian, paid poll tax, only payable by non-Muslims, with some tax benefits for Roma Muslims. Approximately 66,000 “Gypsies” lived in Rumelia then, the majority (47,000) Christians. The Ottoman Empire promoted the adoption of Islam by Roma, mostly through tax benefits, but they were never accepted as “true Muslims”. The ratio between Roma Muslims and Roma Christians continually changed until the balance had radically changed in the course of the 19th century with a ratio of Christian to Muslim as 1:3 or 1:4. The establishment of ethnic-linguistic nation states on the Balkans in the 19th century radically changed the public status and the position of the “Turkish Gypsies”. As a result of this process, complex and heterogeneous communities of Muslim Roma had developed in the Balkans by the second half of the 20th century.…

ROMANI COMMUNITIES IN THE DANUBE BASIN

The ancestors of the Roma communities in Eastern Europe migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Europe over a millennium ago. The boundaries of this community are determined not by its members, but by the surrounding population that has been living alongside them for centuries. Roma have existed in “two dimensions” for some time, namely as a separate community and as an ethnic society within the respective nation state. Roma are an inhomogeneous socio-cultural unit that is hierarchically structured on different taxonomical levels. A main scientific category, which is traditionally used by the Romani studies’ scholars is the Roma group or tribe or nation or caste. …