Sun, 16 Jun 2019

Brussels [Belgium], May 20 (ANI): The European Union on Monday said that it "followed in disbelief" when an alleged corruption scandal involving the former Vice-Chancellor of Austria unfolded recently.

"Indeed, we followed in disbelief as a leader of a political party was seen negotiating access to media and institutions in exchange for funds from external benefactors who clearly do not have Europeans' best interests at heart. We do not feel that comment from our side would be necessary," Sputnik quoted the Chief Spokesman for the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, as saying.

On Friday, German news magazine Der Spiegel and the Suddeutsche Zeitung daily newspaper released a video shot in 2017 which showed the former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache allegedly offering government contracts in exchange for media coverage to a woman claiming to be a Russian investor, along with being the niece of an oligarch.

The publications further reported that the woman offered to buy a 50 per cent stake in Austria's Kronen Zeitung newspaper, ensuring to support Strache's Freedom Party. The video has caused an uproar throughout the European country as elections were only a few months away when the conversation took place around two years ago.

Strache stepped down from his post after the corruption allegations against him surfaced, but dismissed all accusations against himself as a "political attack".

Snap polls will be held in Austria in the beginning of September, according to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who severely condemned the recent developments.

"Austrians have the right to have a government they can trust, a government that is esteemed and respected in Europe and the entire world. We need to rebuild this trust, and this rebuilding is only possible with fresh elections," he stated.

Meanwhile, other members of the European Union have also denounced the alleged corruption scandal. "(The scandal) is doing lots of harm...This is harm that has been done to the entire political culture," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German publication Bild on Monday. He added that the video reinforced several misconceptions regarding politics. (ANI)

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