Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Vienna on Thursday continues to generate reactions in the European country, with Austrian media outlets clearly voicing their opposition to the visit, saying, “You are not welcome here.”
The headline of the Austrian newspaper Kurier was “As an election campaigner, you’re not welcome here!” — a headline similar to that of the German newspaper Bild during Erdoğan’s visit to Cologne last month.
Erdoğan was in Cologne to address the city’s large Turkish community on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD). “Erdoğan, you’re not welcome here. … We do not want politicians like you,” the Bild tabloid wrote in an open letter to the Turkish prime minister that appeared on its front page.
Erdoğan’s visit to Vienna, where he is scheduled to address an estimated 17,000 Turkish citizens residing in Austria as part of his campaign for the presidential election, has caused days of controversy in the European country, with many concerned about what they see as Erdoğan’s inflammatory language and authoritarian behavior dealing with demonstrations, as well as his handling of a corruption scandal that touched four former Cabinet ministers in Turkey.
Erdoğan typically addresses a large audience of expatriate Turks when visiting Austria. He will also mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the UETD in Vienna. His visit comes ahead of the Turkish presidential elections scheduled for Aug. 10, though he has not yet announced his candidacy for the presidency.
Kurier based its headline on a survey conducted on its website regarding the Turkish prime minister’s visit to the capital. The newspaper stated that 70 percent of Austrians were against Erdoğan making an election speech in their country.
Kronen Zeitung, Austria’s biggest-selling newspaper, stated, “Erdoğan is dividing the Turks living in Austria.”
The visit particularly sparked debate after Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said he had warned Erdoğan not to bring the political unrest Turkey has experienced to Austrian society through his polarizing and marginalizing speeches, adding that if Erdoğan were to give a speech similar to the one he gave earlier in Germany, the Turkish population in Vienna would be harmed more than anyone else. Speaking to the Zaman daily, Kurz said many people are worried that Erdoğan might send polarizing and aggressive messages to the Turkish population living in Vienna during his planned address.
Changes to the electoral system that now allow expatriate Turks to cast votes from abroad make them a significant bloc of voters in the upcoming presidential election. About 268,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, according to government figures, of which nearly 115,000 are Turkish citizens.
Erdoğan is scheduled deliver an address at the Albert-Schultz ice rink in Vienna, a facility capable of hosting 7,000 people. Many believe that uneasiness is the reason a big football stadium was not made available to the Turks as the Turkish prime minister requested. Big screens outside the hall will make it possible for 10,000 more people to watch Erdoğan’s address. Various groups of Turks living in Austria are also preparing to protest Erdoğan’s visit.