The Swiss agency ATS announced on June 9 that the full Muslim veil (the burka and the hiqab) will be forbidden in Austria in public places beginning October 1, 2017.
Indeed, the integration law voted in mid-May by the parliament stipulates that any violation of the ban on the full veil will be punished by a fine of up to 150 euros. The law also requires all refugees and asylum-seekers to sign a one-year “integration contract” that includes language classes, civic classes, skills assessment, and preparation for integration.
The president of the Republic, Alexander Van der Bellen, promulgated the text on June 9, explaining that “it is not a good law”. Whereas the social democrat (SPÖe) chancellor Christian Kern declared during his presentation: “We have accepted to forbid the full-face Muslim veil. This agreement has not been easy for us. There are pros and cons, but a coalition has to find a way to work together.” “We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication”, declared the Social Democrat (SPÖe) and Conservative (ÖVeP) coalition on this interdiction.
The minister of Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative party ÖVeP since mid-May, ignited a controversy in the beginning of the year when he suggested going further than just forbidding the full-face veil, and banishing the veil for public service employees.
The first European country to forbid the full-face veil in public places was France with a law promulgated in October 2010, then applied starting in April 2011, that “forbids hiding one’s face in a public place”, with a 150€ fine. There have been 1,600 infractions since. Belgium followed in 2011 and Bulgaria in September 2016. At the end of April, the German deputies decided to forbid the full-face veil for government officials, and oblige persons with their faces hidden to uncover them in the case of identification verification. In Switzerland, only the canton of Ticino has forbidden the burka in public places since July 2016, following a popular vote.