Press release - DC017(2017)

13.02.2017

Austria should improve integrity rules in parliament and independence of the judiciary: anti-corruption report

http://bit.ly/2lFPAVt

In spite of commendable progress that Austria has made in recent years in domestic anti-corruption policies, those for parliamentarians are still at an early stage. Rules are needed to manage conflicts of interest when they arise and a code of conduct should be put in place to improve poor public perceptions of elected officials, according to a new report by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

For example, in spite of criminal code provisions against bribery of parliamentarians, GRECO found that no preventive or administrative rules provide for prohibitions or restrictions for MPs to accept gifts and other advantages, or a specific procedure to be followed for reporting and authorising, for declaring or for returning undesired or unacceptable benefits.

In its latest evaluation [also available in German], based on Austrian responses to a questionnaire and on-site visits, GRECO noted that in recent polls over 30% of respondents still consider it acceptable to offer a gift or a favour in order to obtain something from the public administration or a public service. This percentage is significantly higher than the EU average.

The report called for tighter restrictions for MPs concerning contact with third parties who may try to influence their decisions, such as lobbyists, interest groups, unions and NGOs, among others.

GRECO praised positive steps to improve independence in Austria’s judiciary, but found that the role of the executive branch in selecting and appointing judges and prosecutors should be reduced. The report recommended that staff panels, which select ordinary and administrative court judges, should be involved “more broadly” in the selection process – and that their proposals become binding for the executive body making appointments.

The report also called for clearer distinctions between official legal work and other functions that could lead to a perception of lack of impartiality. GRECO recommends, for example, that a restriction on the simultaneous holding of the office of a judge and that of a member of a federal or local executive or legislative body be laid down in law.

GRECO’s monitoring examines the measures taken to implement its recommendations emanating from previous evaluations. A dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure is applied, combining the expertise of practitioners acting as evaluators and state representatives sitting in plenary.

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The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is a Council of Europe body that aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards. It helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. Currently it comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus and the United States of America.

Contact : Panos Kakaviatos, Spokesperson/Media officer, Tel. +33 3 90 21 50 27

Council of Europe Directorate of Communications
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11
pressunit@coe.int
www.coe.int

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