Another ÖVP MEP quits

The People’s Party (ÖVP) is in turmoil after two members of the European Parliament (MEP) quit within days.MEP Helga Ranner announced yesterday (Tues) she decided to resign. Austrian newspapers claimed Ranner tried to cover personal debts of around seven million Euros with MEPs’ reimbursement of expenses.Ranner vehemently denied the accusations, but argued the reports have made it impossible to focus on her responsibilities in the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, France. The conservative politician vowed to invest all of her time into proving the speculations as wrong.Her resignation came just days after fellow ÖVP member Ernst Strasser stepped down as leader of the ÖVP’s delegation in the EP. He also retired as MEP and “rested” his membership in the ÖVP, which forms a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ) in the federal Austrian parliament.Strasser has been accused of accepting 100,000 Euros for lobbying activities in favour of a company in the EP. His willingness to engage in favour of a financial market firm was documented by a video taken by Sunday Times journalists who claimed to represent the business in question.The former interior minister claimed he wanted to uncover illicit operations by companies trying to win MEPs to back their demands. Anti-corruption officials in Austria and a team of investigators assigned by the European Union (EU) are currently examining the issue.A spokesman for the Austrian anti-corruption prosecution confirmed yesterday that several houses were searched in connection with the case. He added that documents and data storage devices were confiscated as investigations continue.In the meantime, ÖVP MEO Othmar Karas was named as Strasser’s successor as head of the party’s delegation in the EP. Heinz Becker is expected to take Ranner’s seat. This would leave Elisabeth Köstinger as the only woman in the six-member delegation of the ÖVP in the EP.