Ambassador an ‘arrogant Turkish nationalist’

The Turkish ambassador in Vienna has been branded an “arrogant nationalist” for claiming Austrians were only interested in other cultures when on holiday.Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache said today (Thurs) Kadri Ecvet Tezcan should be dismissed from his post after he gave interview to Viennese newspaper Die Presse which made headlines across Europe.Strache, whose party garnered 25.8 per cent in the recent Vienna city parliament election (2005: 14.8 per cent), said Tezcan “seems to be a Turkish nationalist with an arrogant attitude”.The diplomat, who has been Turkish ambassador in Vienna for around one year, infuriated Strache as well as the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) by suggesting Austria should “chase away” all foreigners if the country did not want them to live here.”The Turks (in Austria) don’t want anything from you. They aren’t happy. They don’t want to be treated like a virus,” Tezcan said yesterday.The ambassador caused outrage among ÖVP leaders by appealing to the party’s Interior Minister Maria Fekter to “stop interfering” in the integration process. Tezcan claimed it was no surprise there were just “police solutions” to the issue as long as the interior ministry was in charge. The former ambassador in Azerbaijan suggested that the social affairs ministry should take over handling immigration issues which have dominated the political debate over the past few months.ÖVP General Secretary Fritz Kaltenegger said Tezcan had no right to criticise Fekter. “Ministers like Maria Fekter represent Austria abroad, and are therefore also responsible for the country’s excellent reputation in the world,” he said.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann labelled Tezcan’s statements as “unprofessional and unacceptable”.Josef Bucher, head of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), appealed to European Union (EU) leaders to stop the ongoing accession talks with Turkey.ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf decided to write to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission (EC), because of the interview. Kopf told Barroso he expected a “clear reply” to the claims made by Tezcan.Most Austrian political leaders have maintained a hesitant approach to the question of whether Turkey should become a member of the EU at some stage. While ÖVP Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger stressed that the negotiations were “open-ended”, polls have shown that just one out of five Austrians want Turkey to join the EU.Strache claimed today Tezcan’s “vulgar remarks” confirmed that Turkey was “not ready for Europe”. The right-winger, whose party claimed 17.5 per cent in the 2008 general ballot, said Turkey “lacks Western values”. He added that the EU must stop discussing a possible accession of the country immediately.The FPÖ boss said: “Austria is not a Turkish colony. If the ambassador has any decency, he will apologise to Austrians and resign.”Before the 10 October Vienna vote Strache controversially claimed that many immigrants were unwilling to integrate. The right-winger warned of a “growing ‘Islamisation’” of Europe, and stressed he was considering starting an anti-minaret referendum to ensure no further mosques featuring minarets will be built in Austria. Around 500,000 people living in the country are Muslims, but there are just four mosques with distinctive minarets in Austria.The FPÖ boss has previously also suggested that more and more foreigners were responsible for crimes, while the bestselling Kronen Zeitung newspaper has been campaigning against “organised crime gangs from Eastern Europe” for years.The ruling Viennese SPÖ branch has been attacked by the FPÖ for allegedly doing too little for “honest, hard-working Austrians” while excessively subsidising foreigners at the same time.These claims were made after Statistik Austria research showed that foreigners living in Austria have a higher unemployment rate than Austrians. The agency announced last month that 10.2 per cent (48,300) of foreigners living in the country were out of work, while only 4.1 per cent (156,100) of Austrians were jobless.Its figures also showed that Turks have the highest unemployment rate among ethnic minorities in Austria with 20 per cent, followed by people who came to Austria from former Yugoslavia (10.5 per cent).Around 895,000 foreigners are living in Austria which has an overall population of 8.5 million. Most of them are Germans (213,000), while people from Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro are the second-biggest group with 207,000. Turks come third with 183,000, while the Bosnian community has 130,000 members.The Turkish community in Austria consists of 247,000 people if children born to Turkish families in Austria are also considered. Around one out of two Turks living in Austria are residents of the federal capital Vienna.Tezcan claimed yesterday that Vienna’s Turks “don’t feel welcome here”.Asked why immigrants from Croatia seem to do better at school than most Turkish kids, the ambassador said: “Croats are Christians and therefore welcome in the society, while Turks aren’t. They are constantly being pushed to the corners of society.”Tezcan refused to make any further statements towards Austrian press following the stir his interview caused. Turkish media, however, quote him as saying that he hoped his words would have positive effects after all. The diplomat pointed out that he did not want to insult or accuse anyone, according to Turkish press.Some Austrian commentators have suggested Tezcan deliberately criticised official Austria and its people over a lack of support for his country’s bid to join the EU. Others, however, ruled out that he agreed with Turkish leaders about attacking the Austrian government amid fears that EU decision-makers call off the accession talks which were started five years ago.The 61-year-old Turkish diplomat was not just criticised by politicians over his claims.Rapid Vienna star Yasin Pehlivan stressed his statements were “counter productive”. The 21-year-old Austrian national football team ace, who was born to a Turkish family in Vienna, said: “It’s not a good idea to add fuel to the fire after a Vienna city parliament election campaign which has been full of hatred.”Pehlivan claimed the coexistence between Austrians and immigrants was “generally functioning well”.