Interview mit Frau Bundesminister Ferrero-Waldner für die Website der griechischen EU-Präsidentschaft (englisch)
1. Which is the major challenge for the E.U.?
Ferrero-Waldner: The major challenge is arguably making the enlargement work. The drafting of a new Constitutional Treaty which is currently the task of the European Convention is an important contribution to meet this challenge. On the basis of the results of the European Convention the Intergovernmental Conference will make the final decisions on the amendments of the European Treaties.
The results of the European Convention will have to match the high expectations of Europe's citizens. Citizens are calling for an open, effective and democratically controlled European Union, which is more involved in foreign affairs, security and defence, in other words, greater and better coordinated action to deal with crisis and trouble spots in Europe and in the rest of the world.
2. If we consider the next day of the enlargement: where does Europe really end?
Ferrero-Waldner: The final frontiers of the European Union have not been defined yet. In my view the European Union shall remain open to all European States whose peoples share the same values, respect them and are committed to promoting them together.
3. How do you think the relations between the EU and the CIS could develop?
Ferrero-Waldner: The upcoming enlargement will further increase the importance of the relations between the EU and the CIS. At the EU-Russia summit scheduled to take place on 31 May in St Petersburg we will discuss the future of EU-Russia relations. But we should not concentrate only on Russia, at the European Council in Copenhagen last December the EU underlined its wish to enhance the relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus based on a long-term approach promoting democratic and economic reforms, sustainable development and trade.
4. Which are now the most sensitive issues in the EU-US relations, at the political and economic field?
Ferrero-Waldner: The most sensitive issues in the EU-US relations concern Europe's position towards the Iraq crisis. Though the EU managed to agree on a common text at the European Council in Brussels in February EU Member States still do not have an identical approach in the Iraq crisis, some Member States are closer to the US position than others.
Other sensitive issues concern for example trade questions. EU-US relations cover so many fields that certain disagreements will always exist. We should discuss those sensitive issues in mutual respect and in an open manner. But above all, we should not forget that the issues on which we have the same position as the US are far more important and numerous than the points of disagreement.
5.Concerning the Convention, in which issues progress has been made? Which themes must be underlined?
Ferrero-Waldner: The Convention has made huge progress on a number of points which would have been unimaginable several months ago. To give you a few examples, there is a consensus in the Convention to write a single constitutional treaty thus abolishing the pillar structure and to insert the EU Charta on Fundamental Rights in the new Treaty. The EU will have a single legal personality and there is broad agreement to strengthen the function of the High Representative.
But it is also true that very difficult institutional questions still have to be addressed by the Convention. We would like to underline that the future institutional set-up of the EU must be based on the respect of certain principles: the balance between the EU institutions and the balance between large and small Member States.
6. Which European policies can promote employment? Which initiatives must be taken in order to combat social exclusion?
Ferrero-Waldner: The EU adopted three years ago the so-called Lisbon Strategy with its emphasis on the integration of all aspects of economic reform, enhanced employment, social inclusion and sustainability which has proved to be the right answer of the European Union to these challenges. A comprehensive approach is necessary, past isolated measures have shown to be futile patchwork.
The best protection against social exclusion is a job. The idea of making work pay and creating job opportunities and making people capable and eager to take them up needs to be at the centre of our preoccupations.
Let me point out the most important cornerstones, in my view and in the Austrian perspective, of the overall policies and initiatives necessary and designed to promote employment and combat social exclusion:
- the need to reap the full economic benefits of EU enlargement which is an economic growth zone proving in many ways to be more healthy and dynamic than the present EU member countries;
- the continuation of a stability-oriented macro-economic policy, with a determined commitment to the Stability and Growth Pact, stressing sound public finances and a non-inflationary business environment;
- a closer and more efficient coordination of the economic policies of the member states;
- the continuation of the ongoing assessment, formulation and implementation of strategies and policies for greater social inclusion, including those for sustainable health care, pension systems and care for the elderly and the overhaul of our social security systems with a view to making them viable in the long term. The challenges of demographic change as well as (of) activating and better targeted social measures need to be urgently addressed.
7. Concerning the migration policy, which measures must be adopted? Which are your proposals for combating illegal migration?
Ferrero-Waldner: We believe that migration policy is one of those areas where purely national policy measures cannot be effective since migration is a truly transnational phenomenon which affects all Member States of the EU. Therefore we are convinced that the EU has to pursue a common policy in the field of visas, asylum and immigration as foreseen by the EC Treaty.
The European Council of Seville adopted last June a comprehensive package of measures on combating illegal migration and Austria is fully committed to its implementation:
One of the goals of this package is the gradual introduction of a coordinated and integrated management of the external borders of the EU. Furthermore we must contribute to the amelioration of the economic and social environment in the countries of origin which often lies at the root of the problem of illegal migration.
8. Which are your expectations from the Greek Presidency?
Ferrero-Waldner: The Greek Presidency is doing a great job and we are confident that Greece will continue to fulfill its tasks at the helm of the EU in an impartial and unbiased manner until the end of June. The Presidency plays a vital role in the organization and work of the Council, one of its main tasks is to work out compromises capable of resolving difficulties between the members of the Council.