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Fischler backs Kurz concept

Former European Commissioner Franz Fischler has encouraged Sebastian Kurz to keep calling for a reform of Austria’s democratic system.

Sebastian Kurz, who serves as Austria’s first state secretary for integration since last year, was asked by People’s Party (ÖVP) leader Michael Spindelegger to create a concept for more direct democracy in an attempt to fight the growing disinterest of people in politics. Kurz said 100 members of the next parliament (MPs) should be elected in direct votes. The next federal election will take place in autumn 2013. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP want to lower the number of members from 183 to 165.

Kurz also said that the president of the European Commission (EC) should be elected in a direct election. Furthermore, the vice chief of the ÖVP’s Viennese department pushes for a reduction of bureaucratic burdens to people interested in holding referendums. Now Fischler signalised support for the ÖVP’s shooting star. The former European commissioner for agriculture, rural development and fisheries told the Salzburger Nachrichten today (Tues): "Formal measures like a code of conduct will not change a lot. Ideas such as the ones of Kurz and the ÖVP’s youth section make more sense."

Fischler said he agreed with the state secretary’s point of view to fight for a reform of federal voting regulations in times of polls showing that more and more Austrians think that politicians are corrupt. The former European commissioner said a code of conduct should be introduced as well – but not only for members of the ÖVP but all Austrian politicians. Spindelegger recently revealed plans to set up such a guideline. The ÖVP leader asked a team of elder statesmen, legal experts and political scientists to create a code of conduct for ÖVP officials.

He said the plan was to help party members to get along in the complex juridical system of Austria which, according to Spindelegger, featured many "grey areas" as far as rules for politicians were regarded. The foreign minister said it was not his intention to "build ÖVP prisons". Political opponents reacted rather maliciously to his statements, claiming that lawmakers should know how to behave without keeping some kind of code of conduct in mind.

Fischler not only criticised developments in Austrian politics. Speaking to the Salzburger Nachrichten, the ex-ÖVP agriculture minister said the European Union’s (EU) state and government leaders were making EU politics "less democratic as a whole" by ignoring the EC and the European Parliament (EP). Fischler gave the decision-making process regarding financial support packages for struggling members of the Eurozone as an example.

Othmar Karas, who heads the ÖVP’s delegation in the EP, expressed similar concerns. Karas also told Die Presse last month that the federal parliaments’ influence should not increase further. Karas claimed that some of the EU’s 27 member states’ parliaments were already struggling to fulfil their national duties. His warning followed statements by Spindelegger. The ÖVP boss – who is not on good terms with Karas, according to insiders – said after meeting eight other European foreign ministers for talks in Berlin, Germany, that "more control" by member countries’ federal parliaments was needed.

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