Austrian officials fire back after Kurz criticism

Austrian prosecutors and judges hit back Wednesday at criticism of the justice system by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, days after one of his ministers had his house searched as part of a corruption probe.

Austrian officials fire back after Kurz criticism
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

On Monday, Kurz told a press conference that there were “many failings” in the way anti-corruption prosecutors had gone about investigating Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel and said there was “an urgent need for change” within the body.

Austrian minister's home raided in casino corruption probe 

Last week, Bluemel's house was searched as part of a probe into possible illegal financing of his and Kurz's centre-right People's Party (OeVP) by the gambling giant Novomatic.

Bluemel and the party vehemently deny any wrongdoing.

“These blanket allegations by the chancellor have caused indignation,” the president of the Austrian prosecutors' association, Cornelia Koller, told the Der Standard daily.

Sabine Matejka, the head of the judges' association, also told the paper that Kurz's “accusation of wrongdoing is totally inappropriate and is to be rejected”.

“That one branch of the state should smear another in this way is not something one would expect in a country like Austria,” she added.

Also on Wednesday, the OeVP's parliamentary group wrote to the justice ministry to demand explanations for the reason for the search of Bluemel's house.

Since Kurz entered into a coalition with the Green party in early 2020, the Greens have run the justice ministry. Prior to that, it had been led by OeVP politicians since 2008.

Matejka said that while anyone under investigation had the right to have prosecutors' actions scrutinised, “that is the job of independent courts, not politicians”.

The opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) said Kurz's “attacks on the justice system were dangerous for democracy” and that the actions of OeVP politicians revealed “attitudes towards the rule of law and the separation of powers that should set alarm bells ringing among all democrats”.

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What does the UK’s new ‘traffic light’ system mean for travel to Austria?

The UK government is bringing in a 'traffic light' system set of rules for travel to different countries. Here's what it could mean for travel between Austria and the UK.

What does the UK's new 'traffic light' system mean for travel to Austria?
A near empty Heathrow Airport in London in January 2021. picture alliance/dpa/ZUMA Wire | May James

Whether it’s about visiting family or taking a holiday, Brits in Austria, as well as people in the UK, are desperate to know how they can travel to and from Britain.

At present the UK rules prohibit travel out of the country for non-essential purposes, meaning holidays to Austria (and everywhere else) are not possible. Travel is only allowed for an essential reason.

However, this is set to be lifted from May 17th, and at that stage England’s ‘traffic light’ system will kick in.

This involves giving each country a designation – red, amber or green – based on data including case numbers and vaccination rates in the country.

Currently, Austria is listed as an ‘amber’ country. Although coronavirus infections are falling and vaccinations are picking up pace, numbers at the moment are still quite high.

EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what it means

For comparison, Our World in Data shows that Austria has 117.52 daily confirmed cases per million people, while the UK has 33.97.

However, if the trend continues and numbers continue to drop in Austria in the coming weeks – it could be placed on the green list some time soon.

Not being on the green list doesn’t mean that travel isn’t allowed – it just means that people will have to quarantine and test on arrival in the UK.

Red list – arrivals have to quarantine in specially-designated quarantine hotels for 10 days. The traveller is liable for the cost of these, which is up to £1,700 (around €1,967), plus the cost of testing after arrival. A Covid test is required to enter the country.

This is expected to be reserved for the highest-risk countries including India, Brazil and South Africa.

Note that it could be the case (as is currently) that anyone who’s not a British/Irish national or resident will be refused entry if they are coming from a red country.

Amber list – arrivals have to quarantine for 10 days but can do so in a location of their choice including the home of a friend or family member.

Arrivals also have to pay for travel-testing kits which cost around £200 (around €232) per person. A Covid test is required to enter the country. Essentially, this the regime currently in place for most arrivals.

Green list – no quarantine is necessary, but a Covid test is required to enter the country, plus another test on or before day two of their stay. 

Note that the current travel rules for entering the UK say that an antigen test meeting a certain quality standard is allowed for entry into Britain rather than only PCR tests. We don’t know if this will be allowed under the new travel rules so make sure to check the UK Government’s site before travel.

The list as published applies to England only.

The devolved nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not announced when they will lift travel restrictions but have not so far indicated that they intend to impose different rules to England’s.

What about Austria’s travel rules?

Currently, Austria discourages all but essential travel within the country and abroad, however this is not banned outright. 

Entry into Austria has been difficult since December however, when the country put in place a mandatory quarantine for almost all arrivals. 

From May 19th, this will be relaxed for arrivals from most European countries, while hotels will again be allowed to accept tourists.

More information about that can be found at the following link. 

READ MORE: When will tourism in Austria open up again?

Does this mean that people from the UK can enter Austria from May 19th? 

No, unfortunately not.

As a consequence of Brexit, the UK is no longer a member of the European Union. 

This means that for the purposes of Austria’s travel rules, the UK is considered a ‘third country’ from which travel is restricted. As said expressly in the government’s outline: 

“Due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, entry from said national territory is treated as equivalent to entry from a third country. This means that entry is generally prohibited, with the exception of EU citizens, business travellers and students.”

More information is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: When will Brits be allowed to travel to Austria again?

What about travel for vaccinated people? 

While Austria is a European leader when it comes to developing the so-called ‘green pass’, there is no concrete date upon which vaccinated people will again be allowed to travel. 

Neither Austria nor the UK as yet have vaccine passport systems up and running.

That means that, for the moment, even fully vaccinated people will have to abide by the testing and quarantine rules.

READ ALSO: How will the EU’s ‘Covid passport’ work for tourists in Europe?

Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.