Government Declaration by Foreign Minister Dr. Ursula Plassnik
Madam President, Mr. Federal Chancellor, Mr. Deputy Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen, Since yesterday we have a common currency on both sides of the Karawanken Mountains. On behalf of the Austrian Federal Government I was in Slovenia yesterday where I participated in the formal celebrations. I must say I am proud of our partner, our neighbour Slovenia; after all, this introduction of the euro to Slovenia has been preceded by a difficult development which Slovenia has mastered successfully and within record time.
Yesterday also marked the 15th anniversary of the recognition of Slovenia's sovereignty by Austria and the European Union. Ladies and gentlemen, it was a day on which we really felt the force of European unification at work!
I am addressing our young friends who are watching the presentation of this government programme from the gallery. On page 158 of the government programme you will find the information that the era of the Iron Curtain is to be studied academically and then presented in museums. This was my suggestion, for I think it is a privilege to be able to live in a Europe where the dismantling of the Iron Curtain is the subject of a historical exhibit in a museum. It is for the very same reason that the core concern of this Federal Government is the work on Europe’s reunification, the active shaping of the European peace project in our generation. That is also what our neighbourhood policy consists in, that is what practical foreign policy is all about.
Tomorrow I shall travel to Serbia. Serbia's parliamentary elections are scheduled for 21 January. We want to and shall support Serbia on its path to Europe. We shall not compromise with regard to the requirements posed by the European Union, but I am completely sure, ladies and gentlemen, that one day - in the not too distant future - Serbia, like Slovenia, will be a member of the European Union and will also become a member state of the Eurozone. It is this day that we have to work towards.
The Balkans will continue to be a priority of Austria's European and foreign policy. It is imperative to present the perspective of accession in a credible way that people in the Balkans can believe in.
A few remarks on Turkey: In our government programme we have stated the objective of a step-by-step procedure, with the first goal being a tailor-made Turkish-European Community. We have also stipulated that there will be a referendum in the event that this negotiating process, which will be a lengthy one, should lead to the prospect of accession.
The basic philosophy of the European and foreign policy part of this coalition agreement is that Europe should be perceived as an opportunity. And I am convinced that if the Social Democratic Party and the Austrian People’s Party work together to raise awareness of this fact, the acceptance of European unification will increase among all Austrians.
We want to co-shape Europe in a pro-active and legitimate manner. We shall participate in all policy areas of the European Union, and we shall contribute to ensuring that Europe remains a continent of confidence, not one that is driven by its fears.xxx We shall safeguard and further develop the European model of life with all its components; with its distinctive social components, but also with components of sustainability, multiplicity and cultural diversity. And we shall do this together: our efforts will be based on teamwork in the same way as foreign policy and European policy are based on teamwork.
We shall work on the Constitution and support the German Presidency. We need clear basic rules. We cannot face the elections to the European Parliament in 2009 without having achieved clarity as regards these rules.
The European Union will also be supported by us as a global partner. From this rostrum let me address the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who knows Austria well: Mr. Secretary-General, you can continue to count on Austria as a reliable, committed, pro-active partner of the United Nations.
The world community is facing big challenges. The Middle East will be a regional priority of this work for the world community, for the European Union, and also for Austria; after all, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for an impetus, and this impetus should come from the European Union. We are working on this. We have a lot of confidence on both sides, it is now imperative to use this capital and create the preconditions for a two-state solution.
Just a few words on international cultural policy and development cooperation. In these fields we shall focus special attention on women. In this coalition agreement we have laid down that every single project of Austria’s development cooperation programme is checked for its compliance with the interests and concerns of women.
We shall continue our close cooperation with the economy, and we shall rename the "Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs" as the "Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs" to reflect the continued development of a broader awareness.
Ladies and gentlemen, Austria's foreign policy and European policy will be neither red nor black: it will be red-white-red.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213