Wien, 22. January 2004 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner receives Irish Minister of State for Europe, Dick Roche

22.01.2004

Ferrero against discussion about a core Europe

Vienna, 22 January 2004 - "The last thing we need now is a discussion about a Core Europe, which some people have obviously initiated as a threat rather than a real project", Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner declared on the occasion of today's visit to Vienna by Dick Roche, the Irish Minister of State for Europe. "A Core Europe would not be a good solution for the old Member States; it would be tantamount to a punch in the face for the new ones and a false signal to the world."

At the centre of today’s talks were the further negotiations for reaching a generally acceptable compromise on the issue of the future European Constitution. Ferrero-Waldner welcomed the decision by the Irish Presidency to resume talks for the preparation of the intergovernmental conference on the Constitution for Europe right from the start of the Presidency. "We must try what we can to make the intergovernmental conference of 25 a success and to agree on a constitution that does justice to the needs of all Member States," the Foreign Minister emphasised, assuring her Irish guest of Austria’s full support.

"From our viewpoint, the most important element of the future EU Constitution is the issue of institutional equilibrium. Abandoning the principle of "one Commissioner per Member State" would be unconceivable for Austria. The Austrian population views the Commissioner as the most important link between the national and the European level," the Foreign Minister said. The European Council in Brussels largely approved the formula of one Commissioner per Member State, which Austria also supports. "I presume that the Irish Presidency will continue the negotiations on the EU Constitution on this basis. The maintenance of this principle is the precondition for our consent to an extended Council Presidency."

On the touchy issue of the future weighting of votes in the Council, however, the Foreign Minister signalled flexibility: "We can live with both, the solution arrived at in the Treaty of Nice and the Convention’s proposal. Our preferred variant, of course, would be the parity of the majority not only of Member States but also of the population of the Union. "

Concluding, Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner also thanked her guest for the invitation to a conference that will take place on 7 and 8 April in Wicklow, Ireland, and deal with the issue of how Europe could improve its communication with its citizens.