Vienna, 21 October 2005 - "I have openly informed the parliamentary parties and the representatives on the Council for Austrian Integration and Foreign Policy Issues of my knowledge regarding the allegations concerning the issue of visa", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Vienna on Friday. Judicial authorities are currently investigating a case of alleged abuse of authority by two employees of the Ministry, one of whom has retired in the meantime. According to the arrest warrant they are suspected of having participated in illegal visa trading, and have been taken into custody pending trial.
Plassnik emphatically rejected any "general suspicions" against employees in the consular service. "The Austrian diplomatic and consular service has zero tolerance towards any kind of black sheep in its own ranks", said Plassnik.
The Foreign Minister emphasised that she had asked the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs and the Inspector General to carry out a thorough internal examination as soon as she was informed about the criminal investigations. "Ongoing investigations will be fully supported, all necessary information will be provided", added the Foreign Minister.
"I am extremely interested in a thoroughgoing investigation of the case, which is also in the interests of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and all those who rightly place their trust in a clean and abuse-proof visa system", said Plassnik. "Any abuse must be stopped as quickly as possible. In the event of misconduct, the consequences must be taken - with regard to both procedure and personnel", said the Foreign Minister.
It was a well-known fact that the whole visa area was highly sensitive and therefore subject to particularly strict controls, added Plassnik. Even if individual offences could not be prevented, it was possible to clarify any allegations beyond doubt and take all possible measures to prevent abuse.
"I am taking the allegations very seriously. Since taking office exactly a year ago, I have been working continuously with my team on improvements to ensure clean and transparent visa issue", concluded Plassnik.
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