Winkler: "Visa issuance - FM Ursula Plassnik has taken all steps required"
State Secretary Hans Winkler before Parliament’s Court of Audit Committee
Vienna, 30 October 2007 - "Our uppermost goal is an efficient, abuse-proof visa issuance system. I can only repeat that we are most interested in a thorough and full investigation of all complaints raised in connection with visa issuance abuses in the past. Organised crime is trying its utmost to gain influence over visa issuance worldwide, not only in Austrian representations. Attempts at abuse can only be energetically counteracted or prevented by specific target-oriented measures. Such measures are being taken, and this is being done in accordance with the recommendations made by the Court of Audit," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at a hearing by Parliament’s Court of Audit Committee.
"Austria’s representations issue some 400,000 visas per year, and the overwhelming majority of cases are handled correctly and without problems," emphasised Winkler. The State Secretary expressed his satisfaction that a total of 22 proceedings had been discontinued by the state prosecution. A conviction had become final only in one single case. Seven cases are still pending with the judicial authorities.
Winkler stressed that as soon as the suspicion of irregularities in the field of visa issuance had become public, a number of measures had been ordered by Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik and implemented without delay. "The respective measures concerning staff were taken immediately, and an independent visa commission was set up under the chairmanship of former Foreign Minister Peter Jankowitsch. Our uppermost goal has always been to prevent future abuse and criminal action and ensure that citizens’ justified expectations of safe and legally flawless issuance of visas - which constitute an entry ticket to Austria - are met," said Winkler.
Winkler emphasised that the Court of Audit and the Visa Commission had recommended a number of measures: "Based on these recommendations numerous measures have been implemented, including strict adherence to personnel rotation of employees in the consular field, the dual control principle, more intensive, targeted training of personnel in charge of visa issuance, increased awareness building and preventive measures against corruption in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, improved and intensified checks and an increase in the number of employees in the field of internal audit," said Winkler. In future, there will be additional staff available for the processing of visa applications abroad.
As for the problems identified by the Court of Audit regarding the representations’ property management abroad, the State Secretary emphasised that "in this area too a number of measures have been implemented in accordance with the recommendations of the Court of Audit." This would lead to improved efficiency in the long run.
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