Austria: Chancellor Kurz faces "Ibiza committee"

In Austria, a parliamentary committee of inquiry has been set up to investigate the Ibiza affair, which led to the fall of the government of the conservative ÖVP and the far-right FPÖ in 2019. On Wednesday Sebastian Kurz, who was chancellor at the time and is chancellor now, faced questions about his party's role in the affair. What light do his answers shed on his politics?

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Kurier (AT) /

No news, no smoking guns

Kurz emerged without a scratch, Kurier observes disappointedly:

“No news, no evidence, no smoking guns. It was more about formalities than content. This is not the way to get at Kurz. Nothing sticks to the thick Teflon layer the chancellor has already acquired in his years as a politician. With his talent rhetoric, polite noncommitment and one or two emotional outbursts he easily survived the marathon of questions ... Regardless of what comes out at the end of the investigating committee's proceedings, Ibiza and its consequences show once again how shamelessly some dignitaries behave and how willing they are to push at the limits of legality, if not go beyond them. The blues [from the far-right FPÖ] were stupid enough to get caught again. But structural party nepotism is inherent to our political system.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Same old wheeling and dealing

Kurz was unable to erase the justified criticism, Der Standard observes:

“The Chancellor didn't seem all too confident at the committee hearing. ... But the accusation or suspicion that he broke a law could not be confirmed. Politically, the chancellor could be given a chance to get his act together after this appearance. ... Kurz entered politics with the promise to make everything new and better, and presumably this was why he was elected. After his statements before the committee it can be said that he has not kept this promise. Under his chancellorship there was (and probably still is) wheeling and dealing, scheming and horse-trading. It's not the best people who get the jobs, but those with the best connections. ... No, this is not illegal. ... But it's certainly not new, clean or pleasant.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Judiciary and police reform needed

The Austrian constitutional state has shown itself in a devastating light in recent weeks, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“In addition to the accusations of corruption in various shades, there are now also unresolved allegations about cover-ups, political intervention and sloppiness. This has conveyed the impression that the investigators and politicians are not interested in a through inquiry into one of the most significant corruption cases in Austrian history. The Republic obviously has a problem with corruption, but does not have the will to solve it. ... All these incidents underscore the demands made by experts for years: the judiciary and police in Austria are in urgent need of reform, and all attempts to exert party political influence on the judiciary must be stopped. ... Otherwise it's just a matter of time before the next corruption scandal.”