Minister makes youth protection law reform pledge

People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner has said he is ready to reattempt reforming Austria’s youth protection regulations.Non-government organisations (NGOs) and opposition politicians have criticised decision-makers for years over the issue since laws strongly vary in all of the country’s nine provinces. The legal framework allows 16-year-olds to go out up to three hours longer in some regions than in others. Current rules also mean youths are eligible to acquire high-percentage alcohol in some provinces at the age of 16, but only after they turned 18 in other areas.Especially Austria’s provincial governments and governors have been accused of trying to block any attempts for reforms, assuming that citizens expect them to demonstrate political power over the federal government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative ÖVP.Mitterlehner announced today (Thurs) he will meet with representatives of the provincial governments in the coming days to discuss the matter.A Karmasin poll revealed in April 2010 that 27 per cent of Austrians think the country’s nine provincial governors have superior power in Austria. Only 13 per cent said the same about Federal President Heinz Fischer whose role features representative functions with little direct political influence.Various studies have revealed that many young Austrians smoke and get drunk on a regular basis.The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – which has its headquarters in Paris, France – announced in February that one in three teens living in the country were completely drunk at least twice in their lives, while 25 per cent of 15-year-old Austrians describe themselves as regular smokers.