No easy decision

No easy decision

Austria's Chancellor Kern: Open communication must be possible © Boris Roessler

Austrian government wants to enforce a ban on full-face veils in public spaces. It stands in the way of open communication, the governing coalition explained.

An open society also requires open communication, according to a working agreement of the SPo-oVP coalition presented in Vienna on Monday. "Full-face veiling in public spaces is contrary to this and will therefore be prohibited," according to the two governing parties under Chancellor Christian Kern and Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mittlerlehner.

The regulation is to be adopted in a new integration law. The draft is to be presented next week and approved by the Council of Ministers at the end of March. The government apparently also wants to anchor a ban on headscarves and other religious symbols for police officers, soldiers, judges and public prosecutors.

However, this is not directly mentioned in the coalition paper. The state is obliged to act in an ideologically and religiously neutral manner, it is stated. For uniformed executive officers, judges and prosecutors of both sexes, "care will be taken to ensure that this requirement for neutrality is observed in the performance of duty".

"Arguments for and against"

A ban on full-face veils would not be easy for the government, Chancellor Kern told reporters. There are "arguments for and against". Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner spoke of a "symbolic ban"; an open society needs "face-to-face communication".

The integration package and the chapter "Security and Migration" take up a lot of space in the 36-page government paper. A separate labor market integration law is planned, including the establishment of a "compulsory integration year". In addition to German language courses, vocational qualification assessments and value and orientation courses, it should include mandatory employment, such as a charitable activity.

At the same time, the government emphasizes its intention to "massively reduce the number of migrants arriving in Austria and staying illegally". Plans call for the expansion of existing border controls and tightening of the law on foreigners.

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