Brüssel, 17. May 2004 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner agrees to ESDP proposal

17.05.2004

Participation of Austria possible on the basis of the current constitutional framework

Brussels, 17 May 2004 - "Today’s Intergovernmental Conference negotiations also touched upon the chapter of European Security and Defence Policy. The proposal submitted by the Irish Presidency corresponds to what we had negotiated by the end of 2003 and thus accommodates our interests. It is acceptable to all 25 EU Member States", Austrian Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner said after today’s consultations in Brussels.

As a result of the negotiation initiative launched by Ferrero-Waldner together with Ireland, Finland and Sweden at the end of last year, it has been made clear, above all, that the so-called "enhanced cooperation on mutual defence" does not infringe upon the special character of the security and defence policy of our countries. "We can join in on this cooperation, which I welcome, on the basis of our existing constitutional framework. With regard to the "Solidarity Clause" it should also be noted that the individual EU Member States always have the choice as to the concrete means by which they demonstrate their solidarity in individual cases," the Foreign Minister said.

Neither, as Ferrero-Waldner pointed out, does the constitutional law problem arise in the field of "structured cooperation", since the latter focuses on targeted cooperation in demanding areas of EU crisis management. "After all, the currently valid constitutional framework, notably the constitutional amendments made within the context of the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty, already creates the basis for our full participation in all forms of EU crisis management. Of course, the states wishing to participate in structural cooperation from the outset need to fulfil demanding military criteria, for example with regard to creating an EU rapid response force. But these are issues of a practical nature, which incidentally are being addressed by the Austrian Army Reform Commission headed by Dr. Helmut Zilk. However, as I have already said, there are no constitutional problems arising for us in this context," Ferrero-Waldner emphasised.

"We are in a position to show our solidarity in Europe on the basis of our current constitutional framework. As we know, Ireland, Sweden and Finland are likewise of the opinion that they can participate in this cooperation without this involving any changes to the specific character of the security and defence policy of neutral and non-allied EU Member States. From my point of view, the criteria for participation in structured cooperation are formulated objectively and the accession procedures are mapped out in a way that is transparent and comprehensible for all Member States. I am also confident that the Army Reform Commission chaired by Dr. Zilk will take the steps required to ensure that Austria - along with Finland and Sweden, as far as I know - will be able to participate in structured cooperation from the outset," Ferrero-Waldner concluded.