As the far-right Freedom Party takes the lead in Austria’s general election, its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, has told RT what he thinks of EU immigration policy and expansion plans, and explained why he wants a national debate on Islamization.
RT: Why are Austrians so concerned about Islam?
Heinz-Christian Strache: This is an area where there are too many thorny issues. The European crisis is our main problem now. We also face problems in our immigration policy. This largely concerns migration from non-European countries such as Turkey. More than 50% of Turkish immigrants don’t want to integrate into Austrian society. They don’t want to learn the language and organize parallel and opposing structures. The activities of radical Islamists have become visible in our society. They hinder its peaceful and democratic development. In this sense, we are certainly a political force that comes out against any such radicalization.
RT:EU states refused to work with your party when it was in power five years ago. What will be different this time?
H-CS: I think that Europe is living through a turning point in its development, just as the whole world is getting through a turning point and a period of democratization. I assume that the forthcoming elections in Europe, not only in Austria but also in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany, will cause a wave of wrath and pressure. People are going to give vent to their rage on long-standing parties at the polling stations. That will lead to political changes. Since we are well prepared from this side too, European governments will take these elections seriously and will respect their results, unlike in the Middle East, where the authorities tried to deter democratic transformation by imposing restrictions and with the help of other means which are out of line with the principles of democracy.
RT: The president of Austria's Islamic community says “I have a vision where every town in Austria has a mosque.” What’s your response to that?
H-CS: We also need to proclaim that we respect Islam. Islam is a world religion. Unfortunately, it has emerging signs of radicalism, radical Islamism. We deny radicalism in any religion, including Islam. It’s true of any other religion where there’s radicalism. We are against it. But Europe is a Western Christian land. It’s a fact. When they come to us as guests, they can easily hold their rituals. They don’t need minarets or muezzins. They can pray here and religious freedom is guaranteed to them unlike Islamic countries where we, the Christians, often discover that we don’t enjoy this kind of freedom; that Christians are persecuted and forbidden to build churches.
That is why we see manifestations of intolerance to Christianity in some countries of the Islamic world. What I mean is that we should make it clear to them that tolerance should be two-sided and that both sides should observe each other’s rights. Today, we are witnessing radical Islamist trends, which are not perceived as a religion but as a political order. Several months ago, the Turkish Prime Minister announced his intention to head an Islamic Union, which, so to speak, will brush aside all other aggressors. He wants to have a decisive voice in the sphere of world dominance. He wants to define the future. His militant statement provides more than convincing proof of his intentions.
I think that we, the Europeans, should wake up and become more sensitive and more conscious of our culture. This also concerns the preservation of European folk culture. We need to do that so as not to disappear politically and demographically and so that the loss of values doesn’t lead to complete disintegration. This is exactly what I am trying to revive in Europe.
RT: Why did the Freedom Party create a video game where you can shoot down mosques and Muslims?
H-CS: I did not support this game, and I willingly made statements in public about it. They are not to my liking. One should stick to the truth. It’s not like playing war, as many mistakenly think. This game has been played in Switzerland for many years, and it’s fully legal there, Nobody’s shot, and on the contrary, by pressing a “delete” button, so to speak, they correct flawed tendencies like mosques. And it’s not a war; there are no swastikas, no weapons. That’s what helps eradicate the flawed tendencies. And of course it can’t be interpreted as a war.
RT: Should Turkey be allowed to join the EU?
H-CS: I respect Turkey. Turkey is a fantastic country, a proud country, with a fantastic culture, with fantastic economic success which inspires respect. We respect Turkey’s accomplishments. And every Turkish man may justly be proud of his country, just as we are proud of our country. But Turkey is not a part of Europe. It does not belong there either geographically or historically or culturally. And I want Europe to stay within its borders. I do not want to see Europe expanding by including non-European countries which will turn Europe into a European-Asian-African formation. It would mean the end of Europe. And it would mean an end to the European idea of peace and social ideals.
RT: The President of France has banned the Muslim face veil – the burqa . If you become President of Austria, would you go further?
H-CS: I would strongly support a ban on disguising a person’s appearance. By that, I first of all mean the full covering-up of the face. It’s not about certain people, but about the fact that people should not hide their face, and that you could see and recognize everyone in our society. And I also would like to explain that the legislation, like the one in effect in Turkey for so many years is – in public schools, in public universities, in the civil service, in other words for the officials – there is a law prohibiting the wearing of a head scarf because it’s not needed in such places. And everyone is free to do whatever one wants in their own leisure time. But people arriving in our culture have to integrate, adapt to our conditions, and observe our laws. And we expect it from them. People who do not want to are not forced to come here and are not obliged to stay.
RT: You believe Greece isn't right for the euro – what about other struggling economies like Portugal?
H-CS: Europe is not a balanced block and that’s the problem with the EU’s development. The EU is trying to manage everything in a central and centralized way, taking everything in its hands, so to speak. That is the wrong way to go about it. There are different national economies in Europe, different speeds. Europe is more than the EU. There are many countries which do not belong to the EU. That’s why we should reject centralism and stick more to federalism – we should strengthen national parliaments, regionalization, and federalization. Also we should sort out the problems with the common currency before we face a great fall which will have an impact on every European nation. At the moment the tired and flawed systems haven’t changed.
There has been no change in the banking system. There has been speculation, and there has been no procedure for a bank going bankrupt. They continue to prop up a failed system with tax-payers’ money, they help a system which may end up imploding with hyperinflation, and eventually it may put an end to the order of life in European nations. Nobody thinks about it. That’s why we need to rethink the system and think if it’s wise and right for the strong national economies to leave the Eurozone and return to their currencies. Or maybe strong national economies should create a new strong currency, not the super euro, or whatever they call it, but a currency that will see Europe having two gears, a Europe which will not get dragged down by misfortune with the two parts involved.
RT: You won't rule out Italy's South Tyrol region becoming part of Austria – why?
H-CS: In South Tyrol we have sort of an autonomy for which we had to make a big effort. But today Tyrol does not have the right to self-determination. In the EU they speak a lot about the right to self-determination, but in fact we can see that inside the EU it’s not always applied.
I think that South Tyroleans will be able to obtain the right to self-determination sooner or later, that at present they are probably at different stages and developing in the direction of becoming a free state. And then, when they probably become a free state, they will be able to use the right of self-determination and decide if they want or do not want to stay inside Italy or return to Austria.
It’s legal. We all belong to one and the same European Union, so there must be no problem with that. But up to now we still have such bans. And I think it’s an absolutely positive step and there must be a possibility to support it. For example, like the regional interests of the Northern League – they actively support the desire for autonomy of regions which are not even Italian. That’s why we do not contradict; on the contrary, the position of the federal political party is the same on many issues.
RT:You've made a rap song that people can listen to on your website – let's have a listen to that first.
H-CS: I consciously will not do it. I am a politician and there is a responsibility on me.
But at the same time I do my best – and it’s really hard for me – to use new means of communication too, like Facebook, Twitter, rap music and comics. I do it consciously because I want to start a dialogue with people, especially young people, who are often disappointed in politics, and in whom politics excites feelings of disgust.
I want to involve them in discussion. And I succeed. I love to be recorded: I record my rap tracks and upload those videos onto YouTube, where you can watch them. But I do not arrange concerts.
I am a people’s representative, so to speak, and maybe the one who can persuade you. This line, this line can be continued as long as possible. “Those who do not want to integrate, I have a destination for you: back to your motherland, have a nice trip! We have enough unemployed here!” Like this.
RT: The rap on your site says “Viennese blood”. What does that mean?
H-CS: Wiener Blut is a global trademark of beautiful Vienna and the culture of living of Vienna’s citizens. Wiener Blut – an operetta by Strauss, a magnificent performance you can see every year in concerts around the world. Millions of people listen to this high-class music. And it is Vienna’s advert to the world. Wiener Blut is described as boiling and has passion. We show this passion in a good way, it’s good that we speak about it – we said “More bravery” to Wiener Blut and to our culture. We do not speak badly of everything foreign. We say that it’s bad when we become a minority in our motherland; this way no nation and no culture will be happy on Earth. When you are a minority in your motherland, that means that you have lost your motherland. There exists a human right, a right to have a motherland. And it’s very important to us. It’s the right of all nations on Earth, as well as for the Kurds and many other nations, who have recently been denied this right.