Ratification of the EU Constitution
Statement by Dr. Ursula Plassnik
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
to the Austrian National Council
"Ratification of the EU Constitution"
11 May 2005
Members of the House,
What we have here before us today is nothing less than the first successful result of joint negotiation among the 25 Member States of the enlarged European Union. That is something quite new in the history of Europe. 25 equal and sovereign states have jointly created the rules for their cooperation and combined action. They have agreed
- on the values which guide their action;
- on the objectives they jointly wish to pursue;
- on the legal rules which are to determine their day-to-day balancing of interests.
With this Constitution a piece of modern European identity has been created. And it has been created with due respect for the distinctive cultural, economic and security policy characteristics of the Member States.
The Constitution will apply to 450 million people creating a very real bond of community - whether for Austrian or Latvian, whether for Portuguese or Hungarians.
This Constitution, then, is not only "yellow stars on a blue background", it is "red-white-red" too - just as it also contains the colours of our partners in the EU. And the remarkable thing is that this first joint negotiation success of the new EU also lays the foundation for Europe.
Looking back, it has to be said that this negotiation process was in itself a positive experience for Europe: it was as democratic and transparent as none before it.
For the first time it was not only representatives of the governments, but representatives of the people, of all political groupings in every Member State, who developed this work together in public debates. My express thanks go to the Austrian representatives in the Convention: Hannes Farnleitner, Caspar Einem, Reinhard Bösch, Johannes Voggenhuber and their respective deputies.
Likewise, the negotiations were also a positive experience for Austria and the small and medium-sized states as a whole. We forged alliances with other Member States of similar size to us, who naturally also had comparable interests. Not only did this help us to carry through our negotiating aims for the European Constitution, it also created a network whose positive after-effects are still perceptible today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The debate we are engaged in today is important for Austria - but it is also of importance to other Member States, five of whom have already ratified the European Constitution: Lithuania, Hungary, Italy, Greece, and Slovenia. A sixth Member State - Spain - has as good as ratified following the positive outcome of its referendum.
Today, like you, the people's representatives in Slovakia will deliberate on the Constitution and make their decision. Tomorrow the German Bundestag in Berlin will do the same. With the decisions all of you are taking today you are setting a clear signal in favour of a reunited, future-oriented Europe that is capable of action.
In the field of foreign policy the Constitution not only creates new instruments, it also underlines the EU’s foreign policy objectives. In this context I should like to quote from Article III-292 paragraph 1 of the Constitution:
"The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law."
The Constitution creates the basis that will enable Europe to live up to its responsibility around the globe in tomorrow’s world too.
In the medium-term at the latest, the awareness that Europe together has incomparably more weight and assertive power than the individual Member States alone will also become firmly rooted in the common European consciousness.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, this continent enjoys more freedom, security and prosperity than at any time before in its history.
What is important to people today is thus the safeguarding of the specifically European model of life, the hallmarks of which are the social market economy, a high degree of environmental protection, social justice and social protection, equality between men and women, solidarity and diversity.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to the representatives of the young generation who have come to join us in Parliament today. The Constitution has been made for them, and it will be up to them to carry on and advance the project of European integration that was begun more than fifty years ago.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Diversity is Europe's greatest treasure, thus the Constitution also rightly extols it. "United in diversity" - that is the chosen motto of the European Union.
Europe will not be built in a day and not through a Treaty, but by means of concrete action, by a "solidarity of facts on the ground", as Robert Schuman described it.
With the adoption of this new European Constitution, Ladies and Gentlemen, you as the elected representatives of the Austrian people are taking a great step, a step of assurance and self-confidence for our common European future.