Austria will no longer offer its written driving test in Turkish, according to the country’s transportation minister. Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) claimed the move was to cut costs but added that the government hopes it will serve as an “encouragement to learn German.”
Over a quarter of a million people with Turkish heritage live in Austria. Under current regulations, Austrian residents can take driving lessons in Turkish and take their written tests in the same language.
Turkish is the second-most-popular language among test takers. Last year, 3,631 out of nearly 300,000 driving tests (1.2%) were taken in Turkish, while 2,301 were taken in English, 2,112 in Croatian, and 139 in Slovenian. Hofer said tests in English, Croatian, and Slovenian will continue, although he claimed it was a cost-cutting move: “It’s a question of costs, but also for me, it’s essential to clearly establish in which languages it is sensible to have the exam.”
“Each additional language for training costs the state a five-figure sum that isn’t justifiable,” he told public radio station O1, and then he switched tack to argue that eliminating Turkish would reduce discrimination against other minorities.
“The current offering of exams in Turkish also discriminates against other ethnic minorities, who would like to have the tests translated into Chinese, Arabic, or Albanian,” he said.
The Austrian government must offer the test in Croatian and Slovenian due to the Austrian State Treaty signed after World War II that defines the rights of those two minority groups, but the government said that offering Turkish was “merely a concession” made by the government in 1998.
The anti-immigration FPO took leadership of several key government offices after the 2015 elections, which brought a coalition government into power.
The Austrian leader, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has repeatedly asked the European Union to end negotiations regarding Turkey’s membership.
After Turkey’s June elections, deputy FPO chief Johann Gudenus said, “All those who voted for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Turkish presidential election are clearly better off in Turkey than in Austria,” adding that the election proved that integration of Turks in Austria was a “miserable failure.”