After the execution threat, the Ministry of Finance delivered the requested files to parliament. The cause is considered a precedent and could also hit Sebastian Kurz.
ÖVP Finance Minister Gernot Blümel wrote to his employees on Friday with a personal letter: He had done everything, “exhausted all legal means” to protect their personal rights. And the head of department apologized in advance for “any personal inconvenience” that could arise if the Ibiza-U-Committee now – as requested by the opposition – receives the contents of entire email inboxes.
Until then, Blümel ignored a ruling by the Constitutional Court (VfGH) for two months. Only when the Constitutional Court submitted an application for execution to the Federal President on Thursday did the finance department deliver the files.
SPÖ and FPÖ are calling for Blümel’s resignation. There is also mild reproach from within the ranks: Upper Austria’s governor Thomas Stelzer says, “You don’t have to wait until the last minute with everything and everyone”.
A look back: as early as autumn, the opposition criticized the fact that the finance department only received “empty reports”. Blümel’s reasoning: Everything relevant has already been delivered. The counter-proposal that the MPs name specific search terms with which the ministry itself searches the mailboxes, have rejected the SPÖ, FPÖ and Neos. They wanted a “complete picture” of the correspondence – for example, what concerns ÖBAG boss Thomas Schmid.
On March 3, the VfGH decided: Blümel must deliver everything. The decision remained without consequence, the department insisted: You have to protect “highly personal data”. An objection that the VfGH rejected at the beginning of March: Private documents, messages or photos are not part of the business.
The files finally arrived on Thursday. For the time being they are classified as “secret”. This means that they can only be discussed behind closed doors in the U-Committee. The opposition wants to get a downgrade.
Blumel’s concern that personal information from the chats will also leak to the public is realistic. “That has become a phenomenon of political culture,” says the Graz constitutional lawyer Christoph Bezemek. However, the Constitutional Court “does not necessarily have to take this into account”. In other words: The highest judges are only interested in the laws – whether data protection also works in practice has to be considered separately.
Have a look at Kurz?
In any case, the Constitutional Court took a “very robust position” vis-à-vis the ministry, says Bezemek. And it can be assumed that he will do the same in another case: at the Chancellery. Sebastian Kurz also owed the U-Committee correspondence and calendar entries to date. After a deadline set by the VfGH for delivery, the Chancellery sent 692 emails from employees attesting that there were no longer any “abstractly relevant files”. That’s why you can’t deliver anything.
Next week the highest judges will discuss how to proceed.
Will you also file an application for execution against the Chancellor? According to Bezemek, this is possible: “The question of whether there is really nothing there can be clarified by a look-up.” It remains to be seen whether the Chancellery will allow it to matter.