Vienna, 10 November 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "I support a full investigation of all visa allegations"


Former Foreign Minister Jankowitsch will head an external expert commission of four

Vienna, 10 November 2005 - "Austrians have a right to an untainted, transparent and smooth-running visa system. It is my aim to ensure this in practice. I have informed the parliamentary parties of the specific measures I have taken to ensure that a full investigation of the visa allegations is carried out," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on Thursday after the meeting of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee.

These measures include the establishment of an independent commission of experts headed by former Foreign Minister Peter Jankowitsch. "This commission will contribute its expertise and experience and ensure that all allegations are fully investigated, any abuses eliminated and the system made more resistant to abuse in the future," added the Foreign Minister.

In addition to Jankowitsch, Hans Knitel, former Austrian ambassador in Croatia, Syria and Algeria, and Emanuel Helige and Robert Leu, two former employees of the Foreign Ministry for Foreign Affairs who worked in the consular service for many years, will conduct a systematic and unconditional examination of the visa complaints. "They will look carefully whether abuses exist and, if so, what they consist of in detail," said the Foreign Minister. Moreover, they are expected to offer suggestions for improvements to make the system more resistant to abuses in the future.

"It is important to me to maintain public confidence that visas are being issued by the embassies as they should be. I am therefore grateful to these undisputed experts, under the leadership of former Minister Jankowitsch, for this addition to the existing internal investigation mechanisms and measures," said Plassnik.

Plassnik also pointed out that the two cases currently being investigated by the judiciary occurred before 2004.

"As the Minister responsible I cannot allow a suspicion to fall on my employees en bloc. They do excellent work all over the world and sometimes in extremely difficult conditions. Like their colleagues in other countries, they are exposed to attempts by human traffickers to influence them, particularly in the area of visas", said the Foreign Minister.

"I cannot therefore tolerate any black sheep. Offenders have to be identified and called to account. In this respect, there will be no latitude of any kind, let alone any misguided esprit de corps," concluded the Foreign Minister.