April 19. 2024. 9:13

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Court won’t investigate Austrian far-right over Russia ties

The Austrian court of auditors will not pursue the far-right FPÖ over allegations it received money from a Russian spin doctor in 2016 in exchange for introducing a pro-Russian proposal to parliament, citing procedural reasons.

FPÖ members also discussed money in exchange for pro-Russian proposals presented in parliament and ordered PR articles and visits to Moscow.

Still, due to procedural reasons, the Court of Auditors has decided not to pursue the matter, Spokesman Christian Neuwirth tweeted on Monday.

He was referring to the latest amendment to the Political Parties Act, which allows the court to intervene in cases of “reasonable suspicion”, while the Independent Party Transparency Senate (UPTS) is only allowed to sanction matters after 1 January 2023.

“Already the dissemination of such a suspicion fulfils the elements of the offence of honour insult and credit damage as well as defamation,” said the FPÖ in a statement to APA, rejecting all allegations.

The Independent Party Transparency Senate (UPTS) is an independent authority established by a constitutional provision to impose fines and monetary penalties for violations of certain provisions of the Political Parties Act (at the Federal Chancellery).

An ‘expired’ contract

In 2016, the FPÖ signed a five-year cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party United Russia, intending to strengthen political and economic ties between Vienna and Moscow, but is now refusing to disclose it.

Confronted with the pact available to APA, FPÖ Secretary-General Christian Hafenecker said it had “expired”, claiming that the Russia side would also confirm it

The Social Democrat opposition party (SPÖ) insisted on Tuesday that the FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl should “immediately disclose all contracts between the FPÖ and the Putin’s United Russia party” and to voluntarily grant the court of auditors full access to the party’s finances.

“If the FPÖ continues to refuse control, the serious suspicion will only be confirmed,” SPÖ federal Director Christian Deutsch said in a statement, adding that the far-right party has tabled 30 pro-Russian motions in parliament since the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

The OSCE meeting

Austria is already in the spotlight for the upcoming OSCE assembly meeting in Vienna set to take place from 23-24 February, after parliamentarians from 20 OSCE countries urged the government to bar Russian diplomats from attending.

Austrian FM Alexander Schallenberg recently regretted the meeting’s planned date as “a very unfortunate one” but noted that Vienna must allow all delegates from all participating states to enter the country.

“But at the same time, we must not disregard the fact that we need platforms. The OSCE has never been an organisation of like-minded people,” he added.

The OSCE is currently struggling to get its 2023 budget approved due to a lack of cooperation from Russia. This has left the organisation struggling with its mandate and to make critical decisions such as who will hold future rotating chairmanships.

In addition, there is no mechanism within the OSCE to remove Russia or place limitations on them, meaning the requests for banning Russian officials seem unlikely to be heard.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)