Vienna, 11 December 2006 - Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Johannes Kyrle rejected claims that no lesson had been learnt from the visa allegations of the past. "On the instructions of Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik a number of measures have been taken since last autumn to provide greater protection from abuse in the issuance of visas. The effect of these measures is being felt. We have improved the control system, increased the staff of the General Inspectorate, intensified inspections - also in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior – and initiated a training programme," said the State Secretary. The measures are also in line with the proposals by the independent visa commission set up by the Foreign Minister.
"We have steadily reduced the possibilities of abuse", said Kyrle. The former employee of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs who was arrested in Belgrade a few days ago – he has not yet been brought before the court - was recalled to Vienna in the summer of 2006 and left the Ministry in October 2006.
Kyrle emphatically rejected allegations that leads had not been followed up in time. "The Ministry for Foreign Affairs scrupulously followed all leads and we also cooperate with the Ministry of the Interior in this matter. We ourselves are very interested in identifying all "black sheep" and holding them to account as quickly as possible", said Kyrle. Since 2002 the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade has been inspected nine times by various authorities - four times alone in 2005 - and there have also been spot checks. An anonymous report to the police in 2002 against the former employee now arrested in Belgrade was also examined by the judicial authorities and rejected by the prosecution in 2004.
According to Kyrle, organised crime has been trying hard to influence the issuance of visas. If it can find willing accomplices in individual representation authorities, it is very difficult to uncover these professional and highly skilful frauds. It was precisely this area where the Foreign Ministry’s new measures made themselves felt: in addition to increased training in the field of visa issuance and control, an event was organised in autumn 2006 in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior at which the heads of the Austrian representation authorities were made familiar with the problems of organised crime and of combating corruption. The General Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs also pointed out that staff working in the visa area were regularly relocated.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
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