This was first published at the Gates of Vienna, republished here by permission of the Baron. KGS
Political calculation or career suicide?
by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.
Seldom has an interview given by an ambassador generated as much outrage as the one published in Die Presse several days ago. The Turkish ambassador to Austria, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan, openly and harshly criticized Austrian ministers and Austrian integration policies, as well Austrians themselves (“Austrians are not interested in other cultures.”) Thankfully, the usually lame Austrian politicians have reacted unusually sharply, while being careful to avoid a diplomatic row. A severing of diplomatic ties cannot be in the interests of either Austria or Turkey.
Speaking to Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan claimed Turks in Vienna knew they were not welcome in Austria. He also revealed having been told that the Austrian foreign minister does not welcome ambassadors for meetings — and revealed he would relocate the United Nations (UN) from Vienna were he leader of the international organisation.Asked why immigrants from Croatia seem to do better at school than most people from Turkey, Tezcan said: “Croats are Christians and therefore welcome in the society, while Turks aren’t. They are constantly being pushed to the corners of the society.”A survey by the Austrian Society for European Politics (ÖGfE) showed earlier this week that just 17 per cent of Austrians want Turkey to join the European Union (EU), while 68 per cent of Austrians speak out in favour of Croatia becoming a member.The ambassador however also stressed he registered many “stories of success”. He said: “There are more than 3,500 Turkish businessmen and 110 Turkish doctors in Austria. […] Why doesn’t the Austrian concentrate more on that?”
Tezcan emphasised he has been advising Turks living in Austria to learn German and respect the country’s rules. He explained: “The Turks (in Austria) don’t want anything from you. They aren’t happy. They don’t want to be treated like a virus. (Austrian) Society should help them integrate — and then it would benefit from them.“You don’t have to get more immigrants — you have got them here. But you have to believe in them, and they have to believe in you,” the diplomat added.Referring to the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) success in last month’s Vienna city parliament ballot, Tezcan said: “Almost 30 per cent support a far-right party in a city which regards itself as the cultural centre of Europe. I would not stay here as head of the UN, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) or the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).”The Turkish ambassador said: “If you don’t want any foreigners, why don’t you chase them away? There are many countries in the world where immigrants are welcome. You have to learn how to live together with others. What kind of problem does Austria have?”Tezcan claimed: “The Turks in Vienna are helping each other. They don’t feel welcome here. […] I have been here for a year now. […] There’s a big difference between Vienna and the rest of Austria. People are more hospitable when I leave Vienna.”The 61-year-old attacked Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger by revealing the minister rejected to meet him. He said: “I was told that the foreign minister doesn’t welcome ambassadors when I asked for a meeting. Can you believe that? I’m the ambassador for 250,000 people in this country. What kind of dialogue are we talking about here?”Tezcan, who was the Turkish ambassador to Poland between 2005 and 2008, also criticised Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn by saying: “I met the cardinal, who is a wonderful person. He said to me he hasn’t got any problems with Turks. I told him: ‘That’s not enough, you have to do more, you have to write that in your newspaper column. You should say that the Islam is worth as much as Catholicism.”Schönborn has been attacked by some NGOs and politicians for writing a weekly column for the Kronen Zeitung. The bestselling daily has campaigned against foreigners and linked soaring crime with “organised gangs from Eastern Europe” for years.Asked how to reduce the number of Turkish children in special needs schools due to poor language skills, Tezcan suggested there should be more support for them learning Turkish properly. The ambassador claimed such a measure would help them in learning German.The diplomat also said attending kindergarten should be mandatory for Turkish children aged three or four to improve the integration process. “Parents, teenagers, children — they all should be able to speak German,” he told Die Presse.Tezcan revealed he met FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache to discuss problems of the coexistence of Austrians and Turks. “We agreed to disagree about everything regarding integration,” he said about the conversation with the right-winger. The Turkish ambassador accused Strache of “having no idea how the world develops.”He also criticised the Austrian Social Democrats for failing to stand up against the FPÖ’s agitation.Tezcan rejected calls to ban headscarves. Politicians of all Austrian parties suggested Muslim women should not be allowed to wear them amid concerns they were enforced by their husbands to do so.“Does wearing headscarves break the law? No. You haven’t got the right to tell anybody what to do regarding this issue. If you are allowed to bath [sic!] [swim] naked, you should be allowed to wear headscarves,” he said.
One of Ambassador Tezcan’s statements is not only wrong, but simply dangerous: If he believes that he can speak about Austrian citizens with Turkish background as “his” fellow countrymen, he ignores Austria’s sovereignty. Or perhaps Turkey understands itself to be the protecting power for all emigrant Turks […]. The next step may be to make a territorial claims with regard to the residential areas of “its” people, such as the districts of Favoriten and Fünfhaus in Vienna.Turkey sees itself as a Eurasian great power and does not want to be treated by official Austria as the migrant workers’ home.
It is naive to even think that the comments criticizing Austria made by the ambassador of the Turkish Republic are his personal opinion. […] The Turkish foreign ministry has thought very carefully about who to send to Vienna. The ambassador’s statements are to be seen in the context of the EU-wide debate with regards to the accession of Turkey, and are directed at a government opposing Turkey’s EU-accession. […] It’s easier to attack the weakest of the three countries [France, Germany, Austria, which all oppose accession]: It was Austria that wanted to block accession talks in 2005.