December 28, 2017 / 10:30 AM / a year ago

Austria's top judge criticizes ever tougher laws on asylum, security

FILE PHOTO: Austrian Constitutional Court Chief Justice Gerhart Holzinger attends a court session in Vienna, Austria October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) - The outgoing president of Austria’s constitutional court has criticized ever tougher legislation on asylum and security measures, days after the conservatives formed a coalition government with the far right.

Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party joined forces with the anti-Islam Freedom Party this month, vowing to increase the power of the security apparatus, to fight illegal immigration and to combat what they perceive as the Islamization of society.

Gerhart Holzinger, who has to step down as president of the constitutional court at the end of this year due to his age, told the newspaper Der Standard the new government’s plans to tighten security were aimless “legislative activism”.

When asked about the new government’s plans to take away asylum seekers’ phones and cash and allow their doctors to break with the rule of medical confidentiality, Holzinger said such issues would certainly end up with constitutional judges.

“In the sectors of asylum and migration, there is indeed a staccato-style lining up of new laws. It cannot work that way because the apparatus that is supposed to apply these laws is faced with new rules every month or half year,” he said.

“But sometimes the consistent handling and application of laws is more tiresome than the publication of new party (political) projects.”

Austria had already tightened its asylum rules under the previous centrist government and some provincial governments have cut social services for refugees - laws that are currently under review by the constitutional court and the European Court of Justice.

Nevertheless, the conservative-far right coalition has promised to introduce these cuts nationwide.

The new government also wants to expand its security services’ ability to monitor online communication, but similar projects were abandoned by its predecessors over privacy concerns.

Reporting By Shadia Nasralla, Editing by William Maclean

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