Austria removes Turkish language from driving theory tests

Transport Ministry tells learner drivers in Austria they will no longer be able to take their theory test in Turkish

(Photo: Hurriyet Daily News)
(Photo: Hurriyet Daily News)

The Austrian Transport Ministry has announced that learner drivers in Austria will no longer be able to take their theory test in Turkish.

Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, from the far-right Freedom Party, has explained that the decision was made to cut costs.

“Each additional language for training costs the state a five-figure sum that isn’t justifiable,” he said.

He added that the decision was also intended to be an "encouragement to learn German."

While a minority of prospective drivers take the test in Turkish (about 1.2%), the language remains the second most popular option, and the test still remain available in English, Croatian, and Slovene. The latter of these two are obliged to be kept due to a post-WWII treaty, but the Transport Ministry claims that the use of Turkish for the driving exam “was merely a concession” by the government in 1998. Hofer said that eliminating Turkish would actually decrease discrimination, as the current offering of the exams cannot cater for the test’s translation into other foreign languages.

The anti-immigration Freedom Party secured a number of key positions in Austria’s coalition government during last year’s elections, beside the conservative People’s Party, making Austria the only country in Western Europe to have a far-right party in power.

The change to the language options for candidates comes during a period of increasingly negative relations between Austria and Turkey.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wants the EU to end Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, a stance which has angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In 2017, this led to Turkey to veto cooperation between NATO and Austria. Turkey is a key player in NATO operations, and this move disrupted NATO’s partnership activities with 41 states.

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