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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

Switzerland, Austria

Switzerland received 38,579 asylum applications in the first eight months of 1999, an average of 4,800 a month, almost double year-earlier levels—the government is projecting a record 55,000 asylum applications in 1999. About 70 percent of the applications have been filed by Kosovar Albanians; Switzerland has about 200,000 Kosovar residents.

In September 1999, the Swiss city of Emmen implemented a local initiative that permits local residents to pass on each naturalization applicant. Residents were given a booklet with photos and other data on the applicants and voted to approve two and reject two naturalization applications.

Austria. In Austrian elections on October 3, 1999, the Freedom Party, headed by Joerg Haider, became the second largest party, winning 27 percent of the vote. In September, Haider said he would freeze immigration to Carinthia, the state where he has been governor since April 1999. Haider was forced to resign as governor of Carinthia province in 1991 after his praise for the "sound employment policies" of the Third Reich was interpreted as an endorsement of slave labor.

Haider said that Austria had one million immigrants; the government reports 750,000, about 10 percent of the population, and most come from Turkey and the former Yugoslav republics.

The Social Democrats got 33 percent of the vote, and said that they would not form a coalition government with the Freedom Party. However, the People's Party, which received just under 27 percent of the vote, said that it would not form another coalition government with the Social Democrats.

Haider attributed the success of his party with the growing frustration of Austrian voters with illegal immigrants who are blamed for increased crime, drug trafficking and prostitution. Haider also opposed Austria's entry in the European Union.

The Freedom Party won 22 percent of the vote in the 1995 election, and 27 percent in a September 1999 election in Vorarlberg, Austria's westernmost province.

William Drozdiak, "Rightist Party gains In Austrian Elections," Washington Post, October 4, 1999. Donald G. McNeil, Jr. "Austria vote may put far-right party in thick of things," New York Times, October 3, 1999. "Swiss town rejects citizenship for Yugoslav families, BaZ says," Bloomberg, September 13, 1999.