ÖVP-U Committee – Köstinger is asked about studies and appointments

Ex-Minister of Agriculture Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) will be questioned in the ÖVP investigative committee on Thursday. The deputies are interested in the commissioning of studies, surveys and advertisements as well as in filling posts during their term of office. Group representatives outside of the People’s Party suspect that the ÖVP could have attached party-political issues to studies commissioned by the ministry. For his part, Köstinger rejected all allegations right from the start.

The minister, who resigned at the beginning of May, used her opening statement to once again praise her work in the government – from the ban on plastic bags to the “heart project”, the mandatory designation of origin for food. A year ago, Köstinger was questioned in the Ibiza investigative committee, for example about the “Ballhausplatz project”, which was supposed to pave the way for Sebastian Kurz to become chancellor. The term is “medially constructed” she said. Otherwise she has no further perception.

The fact that the grand coalition burst was due to a certain dissatisfaction in the ÖVP, recalled Köstinger, who was a member of the European Parliament at the time. The “quite a very long coalition between SPÖ and ÖVP” triggered “a certain feeling of stagnation”. As a minister, she said she was “always very sparing” with advertisements, as they served to provide information. Also insertions in the farmer’s newspaper, which is said to be “the medium with the highest circulation in the agricultural sector”.

Köstinger was also questioned by the trial judge about the allegedly planned purchase of secret service encryption software for her ministry. This was offered to all ministries to ensure secure communication, she said. Did this have something to do with the previously unintentional publication of messages? She has no perception of this, said Köstinger.

In response to a question from SPÖ parliamentary group leader Jan Krainer, who referred to Köstinger’s earlier statements in parliament, in which she had ruled out that there had been assignments that had nothing to do with the subject of the department, she said: “At my information stand (in this regard, Note) nothing has changed.”

The survey day is interrupted by the special session of the National Council. This meets because of the anti-inflation package at 12 o’clock for an unscheduled meeting. As soon as the plenum is over, the second interviewee will continue – namely with Gernot Maier, who was General Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture under Köstinger and its head of cabinet.

SPÖ parliamentary group leader Jan Krainer had stated before the meeting that he was assuming that when Köstinger was questioned, a picture similar to that of the previous day (when dealing with studies from the Ministry of Economic Affairs) would be seen. “Yesterday we saw that the Economics Ministry had incorporated a number of purely party-politically motivated questions.” On today’s day of the survey, one will see, among other things, that the questions were “partially word-identical” with those of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. At the end of the day, the ÖVP then used the data collected in this way, according to Krainer’s accusation.

The leader of the Greens, Nina Tomaselli, is also expecting new insights from Köstinger’s survey. If you look at the files, you can see “that the Ministry of Agriculture must have been a true self-service shop for the ÖVP,” she criticized the job awards to people who were allegedly close to the ÖVP.

FPÖ MP Susanne Fürst wants to ask Köstinger, among other things, about a “completely overpriced” corona test program in tourism. And she, too, wants to know, with a view to studies, “whether this system has also found its way into Ms. Köstinger’s Ministry of Agriculture.”

NEOS faction leader Stephanie Krisper also expressed the “expectation that the Ministry of Agriculture would carry out a similar self-service” as had happened in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Among other things, she called for the abolition of general secretaries – the day before it had become clear that the ÖVP had installed general secretaries without consultation in the department.

On the other hand, ÖVP parliamentary group leader Andreas Hanger expects “very little gain in knowledge” from Köstinger’s survey. The other factions would merely try to get celebrities on the U-committee. Regarding the studies debated the day before, Hanger said that these included “a hundred questions”. “Yes, one can discuss one or the other question”, but it is “absurd” to deduce that the ÖVP would have attached party political surveys. (apa)


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