The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has reported that Austria has acted upon just two of the 19 recommendations to fight against corruption in the country's parliament and the judiciary.

Austria has come under the criticism of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) for not doing enough to tackle corruption in the country's judiciary and parliament. 

In a report published on Monday, GRECO concluded that Austria has implemented only two of the 19 recommendations made in 2017. 

It suggested that the nation has a very low level of compliance when it comes to the recommendations made regarding the prevention of corruption among members of parliament, judges and prosecutors.

GRECO has encouraged the Austrian Parliament to “seriously deal” with problems related to transparency in the legislative process, and to establish a code of conduct.

GRECO openly regretted the country’s persistent lack of progress in doing this.

The report says by looking at recent polls, more than 30 percent of Austrians consider it acceptable to offer a gift in order to gain an advantage from public administration or a public service - this is quite a bit higher than the EU average. 

The Council of Europe also said Austria's “anti-corruption policies for parliamentarians are still at an early stage.” The report urges that the anti-corruption policies “should be recalled that before 1 January 2013, bribery of parliamentarians was criminalised very narrowly.”

GRECO offers a framework that should seek to prevent gifts and other benefits going to MPs as a result of their political and parliamentary works, the report underlined

When it comes to the judiciary, GRECO said many of the recommendations have not yet been finalised by Austrian officials. 

“Austria still needs to guarantee the principle of public hearings for these courts, and to introduce a coherent status for administrative judges which would in particular include conditions of service, and a set of rights and obligations approximated with that of ordinary court judges,” the report said. 

The amendments, which aim to improve their appraisal system, have not been adopted.

Together with these deficiencies, GRECO welcomed the country’s recent provisions that prohibit judges and prosecutors from simultaneously holding political positions in executive or legislative bodies.

According to the  “globally unsatisfactory” level of compliance, GRECO asked Austria to create a progress report on the implementation of the current recommendations no later than September 30, 2021.

On February 11, Austrian prosecutors searched the home of Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel, a close ally of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, on suspicion of bribery involving a gambling company seeking help with foreign taxes.

In Bluemel’s case, the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office said it suspects a manager at an unnamed gambling company offered to donate money to an unspecified political party in exchange for Austrian officials’ help with a potential tax claim against it abroad.

He is suspected of committing bribery and corruption offences, the statement added.

In 2019, former far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache had been investigated on suspicion of a breach of trust in connection with a sting video that forced Strache to quit the coalition government.

Video footage from a 2017 dinner party shows Strache meeting a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece.  He appears to offer to fix state contracts in return for political or financial help.

Source: TRT World