VIENNA – Constitutional Service expresses doubts over new COVID-19 law

With Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober preparing to meet the heads of the country’s political parties today (31 August) to discuss the changes to the COVID-19 law, the Constitutional Service in the Chancellor’s office expressed reservations about the changes to the legislation on Sunday (30 August), claiming that the law could still be unconstitutional. The opposition has also continued their sharp criticism.

One of the key concerns voiced by the Constitutional Service is the lack of clarity regarding the terms “certain” and “public” places, which the new legislation claims it could ban entry into in the event of new restrictions.

This wording is proving to be problematic, as the Constitutional Court has ruled that large parts of Austria’s lockdown rules, including its restrictions on entering public spaces, are unconstitutional.

“The proposed wording does not make it possible […] to identify with sufficient clarity the concrete meaning of the terms ‘certain places’ and ‘public places’ and their delimitation from each other,” the Constitutional Service wrote.

While the country’s health ministry says that they involved the Constitutional Service in redrafting Austria’s COVID-19 Measures Act, the office claimed on Sunday that they had “submitted comments to the health ministry that were not taken into account in the draft review.”

These comments come just after Chancellor Sebastain Kurz (ÖVP) told Der Standard that “the Minister of Health enjoys my trust” on Friday (28 August).

The comments from the Constitutional Service add to the strong critiques coming from Austria’s opposition parties. Spokesperson for the liberal NEOS, Gerald Loacker, has called it a “constitutional mess,” while SPÖ Vice Chair, Jörg Leichtfried, said it is a “borderline legislative proposal.” (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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