We were proud of it, now we do not need it any longer

Reinhard wrote in response to the decision of the Austrian Ministry of Interior to discontinue MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences) in cases of high impact domestic violence (as well as defund a number of programs such as women’s counselling and violence prevention).

Austria's internationally exemplary approach to domestic violence is simply pulped.

Two present reports shed a significant light on the situation in Austria. The EU Research Ministers are advising on the new European Research Program under the Austrian Presidency in Vienna. A lot of kind words and the usual overdose of good will. At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior terminates cooperation with NGOs in the treatment of high-risk cases in the area of domestic violence (MARAC).

What links these two messages? With IMPRODOVA, we have received funding for a major European research project funded by the current Horizon 2020 program on dealing with high-risk cases in the area of domestic violence. The aim of IMPRODOVA is to develop a coordinated European approach to this problem: what needs to be done, who is doing the best in Europe, what can Member States learn from each other and what is the path to take in the future?

When we applied for this project, as Austrian partners in the consortium we were in the - atypical - situation to be proud of the situation in this country: Austria has the status of a best-practice example in dealing with domestic violence. The legal situation, the cooperation across agencies, organizations and professions worked in this country. We wanted to show the Finns and the French, Scots and Germans how to do it right.

We wanted to use the living example to demonstrate that problems such as domestic violence are societal issues that require a societal (multi-professional, cross-agency, civil society-inclusive) solution. It was not without pride that we wanted to demonstrate that, in a country that is less synonymous with social, technological and social innovation in Europe, something can develop that is exemplary. At least when one takes the widely praised value orientation of the European Union and the European Research Program seriously: Europe should become the home of inclusive, innovative and just social systems - equality, freedom, justice - and European research too should contribute to this.

We obviously reckoned without our (political) host. Unfortunately, with the typical gesture of "What's the use anyhow?", the exemplary approach in dealing with domestic violence was crushed. The problem was referred to one of the newly set up inter-ministerial commissions, which are to develop reforms in the wider area of criminal law in alignment with the new government's program. The announcements from these commissions so far do not suggest much good, at least if one takes the European canon of values seriously.

But we do not want to complain, though in Austria. We will tell our European partners the story of how it used to be, because the memories of better times and the hope of their return are probably the only thing that remains for us - even in research.

Reinhard Kreissl, VICESSE
Vienna, 20 July 2018

This article was published in Der Standard, on 20.07.2018 as "Kommentar der Anderen" (German).