I heard this morning on the radio that the failed Austrian bank Hypo has so far cost me € 630. That’s two months of rent, according to the latest account by the Vienna Green party. So the Hypotopia protest project is also gaining more profile again (a model city created to show what could be built for the same cost as the € 19 billion bailout). This makes me wish even more that I was allowed to be present as a citizen of Austria at the Commission of Inquiry launched into Hypo, and with that I probably hit upon a very salient issue: real life parliamentarianism.
The Commission will no doubt bring things to light which many of us did not really know about or have an interest in until the Hypo crisis erupted. Among them, the role of the supervisory authority (“Financial Market Authority” probably meant nothing to most Austrians before Hypo Alpe Adria) and that of the Fimbag (Financial Market Holding Company of the Republic of Austria) and other institutions, which are in fact supposed to protect us, the citizens of this country, from misuse of taxpayer’s money or our contributions or deposits.
Freedom of Information Act?
So I would like to have the opportunity to be able to follow this investigation right from the start on television and/or by live streaming. But my wish will not be granted. Apparently even in the preliminary stages, there was not the greatest possible transparency when the judge leading the Commission was appointed. The Freedom of Information Act, which does not even exist yet, was at any rate not even used when sections of the opposition wanted to access information.
I find it very disquieting that the Commission is not being broadcast. The people of Austria have never before been so directly and obviously affected in a financial sense by mismanagement as they are in the Hypo scandal. Of course the very open discourse or exchange of views, particularly in social media, is one reason that the involvement and the outrage mostly associated with it is working simply and directly. At the same time, our next taxes hold the prospect of the tax reform necessary to plug some of Hypo’s billion-euro hole. People at least want to know NOW how this fiscal fiasco was caused.
There is the growing impression that, during the Commission, the findings or facts as currently known are not to be disclosed to the public immediately. This is probably in part because the extent of what we are all coming to realise cannot really be fully assessed.
Nor should it be forgotten, of course, that the Commission is taking place in an election year. That means that the political manoeuvres in the Commission are not necessarily helpful (or on the other hand are very helpful) for the performance of the individual parties at national level. The flow of information is therefore more likely to come from the opposition parties than from the governing parties.
If there were a live stream, without any commentary, then informed citizens (which we are hopefully all considered to be) could form their own opinions.
Austria should become Europe
It is standard practice in Germany to broadcast commissions. The European Parliament broadcasts all of its meetings, debates and sessions on the internet, to promote the participation of EU citizens in “Europe”. It is time for Austria to adopt European standards here and strengthen parliamentarianism. In so doing, it would also confirm that the minority right on convening parliamentary committees of inquiry not only happens with the Hypo-crisis but also does not show any hypocrisy (with the question being, who is “it”).
May the exercise be a success. For all of us.