The black-green coalition in Austriawhich together only get a little more than 30 percent of the votes in polls, came together for a working meeting outside the gates of Vienna, which is intended to show that the government is extremely active and cooperates well.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) presented several measures that fall under the heading of climate protection, although the actual climate protection law is still a long way off: accelerating environmental impact assessments, facilitating photovoltaics, expanding biogas production – Austria’s media interpreted the results as honorable but not far-reaching. Nehammer showed up in one ORF interview on Wednesday evening because also visibly touched when the moderator asked above all about everything that had been promised for a long time and yet remained unfulfilled.
According to their own interpretation, the highlight was saved for Thursday anyway, when Justice Minister Alma Zadić (Greens) and Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP) presented the long-awaited reform of the criminal law on corruption, which was also decided at the meeting. The key points are two large gaps that have finally been closed, as Zadic said: the ban on buying mandates and making promises for “official activities contrary to duty” by applicants for political offices punishable by law.
Even candidates are liable to prosecution if they make promises that are immoral
The former means that in future it will be forbidden to bribe party leaders to help the client’s preferred candidate to a political mandate, for example as a member of parliament. The background is, among other things, a specific case in which ex-FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache is said to have hoisted a quasi-unknown into the National Council in 2013 against a payment of millions from Ukrainian oligarchs. The investigations were discontinued – also because “the creation of an election list was not an official business and thus buying a mandate as bribery was not punishable”.
In the future, it will also be punishable “if a candidate for office demands or is promised an illegal advantage”. This means that not only officials themselves, but also candidates for political office are liable to prosecution if they promise immoral things for the time after their election.
There is also a painful example of this reform step in Austrian politics: in the video of one Meet Straches with a supposed oligarch niece in Ibiza The politician, who was soon to become Vice-Chancellor of Sebastian Kurz’s government, promises numerous deals that would have constituted abuse of office and breach of trust.
In addition, the coalition plans to automatically lose office for elected officials after being sentenced to more than six months in prison, as well as stricter penalties for bribery offenses of more than 300,000 euros. At the same time, Constitutional Minister Edtstadler went surprisingly far ahead with her dictum that this is probably the “toughest anti-corruption law in the world”. For example, the OECD has long been calling for the increase in penalties for high bribes; and the possibility of purchasing mandates was always considered an oddity in Austrian law. The press conference was also spicy because both coalition politicians did not respond to the massive corruption allegations against the ÖVP in recent years.