Karl pledges faith effort

New People’s Party (ÖVP) Justice Minister Beatrix Karl has said she wants to win back people’s faith in the country’s juridical system.A majority of 55 per cent of Austrians told research group Karmasin in January that they put less trust in the juridical system now than one year ago.Karl was sworn in yesterday (Thurs). The former science minister succeeds Claudia Bandion-Ortner, while former Innsbruck University head Karlheinz Töchterle was named new science minister.Karl said she will meet with employees of the justice minister “right after Easter” to discuss how the juridical system’s reputation could be improved. Many people are reportedly unhappy with the allegedly slow process of investigations regarding high-profile corruption cases involving former government ministers and upper-tier businesspeople.Bandion-Ortner – who refused to reveal any plans for her personal future – said only days before she was dismissed that she planned to free prosecutors from other duties so they can fully focus on cases that received more public attention. Representatives of state prosecutors and judges reacted negatively to her “populist” announcements.Karl explained today she was looking forward to her new role. The new justice minister added that she would also have enjoyed continuing staying in charge of science agendas. Her responsibilities were diminished by her own party when ÖVP decision-makers appointed MP Werner Amon as new chief negotiator of school agendas some weeks ago. The nomination came shortly after Karl controversially signalled agreement with Social Democratic (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied over reforming the country’s compulsory school system.Karl angered student associations by speaking out in favour of the reintroduction of tuition fees which were abolished a few days ahead of the general election in 2008. All parties represented in the federal parliament expect the ÖVP passed the bill. A coalition of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the ÖVP introduced the disputed charges in 2001. Tens of thousands of students took to the streets in response in the following weeks.Töchterle made clear earlier this week he was of the same opinion as Karl as far as tuition fees are regarded, adding that it must be possible to discuss all points of view considering the Austrian higher education system. Experts have been at odds for years over whether tuition fees were the only way to improve the quality of lectures and facilities at the country’s universities.