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Khol calls for cooling off

A conservative opinion leader has suggested the introduction of a cooling off period for government officials to support the fight against corruption.

Andreas Khol said federal government ministers should not be allowed to take on a job in the private economy immediately after leaving politics if the new position featured a possible conflict of interest. The former People’s Party (ÖVP) member of parliament (MP), whip and parliament speaker said during a podium discussion in Vienna yesterday evening (Weds): "The minister for energy issues must not join an energy industry company right after leaving politics."

Khol – who now heads the Austrian Association of Conservative Pensioners – said a cooling off agreement must include a continuation of payment of salaries to government ministers for some time. Speaking about the various corruption cases which infuriate voters and shatter Austria’s political elite, Khol said the government "must sort out these problems or the devil will get it."

The former president of the parliament said he was unhappy about the apparent lack of progress in investigations against ex-ministers and lobbyists too – but also warned from prejudgements. Khol underlined that none of the alleged main players who engaged in fraud, bribery and abuse of office had been found guilty since speculations about such illicit deals first emerged in 2003.

Khol stressed that he would keep "fighting tooth and nail against a devaluation of Austria’s media law and freedom of opinion but also criticised whistleblowers "because they are breaking the law". Greens MP Peter Pilz told the Kurier newspaper last Sunday he wanted the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP to finally pass stricter anti-corruption laws. Pilz also said that whistleblowers deserved better protection, regardless of whether they worked for political institutions, in the public sector or the private economy.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann promised on Tuesday that the current law – which is widely considered as ineffective – would be updated before summer. His pledge is seen as a direct response to a warning by Pilz. The Green Party member said he would start organising a referendum shortly if the coalition kept delaying appointments with the opposition in which a reform of the bylaws should be discussed. Pilz said he was at the ready to look for prominent personalities willing to support his initiative.

Franz Fiedler, the head of the Austrian branch of non-government organisation Transparency International (TI), said in the Ö1 radio live discussion yesterday evening: "The key problem is not how common corruption is but how politicians deal with it. There is a great need for improvements here. The political elite has a lot of catching-up to do."

Fiedler – who once headed the Federal Audit Office (RH) – said he was worried since people were "losing the feeling for what is allowed and what is not". The TI Austria head said that the borders were not clearly determined in this concern. He once more called for stricter rules and more transparency – and launched an attack on the country’s established parties.

Fiedler said: "A party official might help a friend’s son in his search for an apartment. In return, he probably indicates that it would not be a mistake for the young man to join his party. The leading parties deny that this is a corruptive act – but this is where it all starts."

Vienna Times

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Tag cloud:
energy  ndash  Transparency  politics  government  stricter  coalition  Fiedler  corruption  ministers  whistleblowers  Ouml  Khol  apparent  parliament  problems  Pilz  cooling  rsquo  Austrian

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