Vienna, 18 November 2005 - At the beginning of her opening statement on the occasion of the 9th European Forum of the Austrian Institute for European Security Policy, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today called for "Eurorealism".
"The situation we are facing at the start of Austria’s Presidency is a demanding one. We will undertake all efforts to meet our objectives of more trust, more clarity, and more impetus for Europe and its citizens," said Plassnik.
"It is not the speculations about a big master plan or a general design that are in the foreground, but practical measures and specific tasks," continued Plassnik, referring in this context to the Balkans where the UN negotiating process is just starting. "Austria has made substantial contributions in such areas as decentralisation and protection of religious sites, but also in the field of the dialogue among cultures - as recently illustrated by the three-day conference on Islam in Vienna - ," said the Foreign Minister.
"In the world at large the demand for Europe is increasing, while here in Europe itself we are confronted with failures of confidence. It is important to me that we deal seriously with their causes and effects. However, I reject the tendency to talk only about Europe in crisis," said the Foreign Minister.
The European Union was neither a "super-market nor a super-state," said Plassnik. It was necessary to "find the right balance, to determine the best level of regulation," she added, referring to the subsidiarity conference currently taking place in the Netherlands where Austria is represented by State Secretary Winkler. "Whether or not we manage to take our decisions as closely as possible to the citizen and with the citizen is a question of credibility and efficiency," continued Plassnik.
One of the historic achievements of the EU was that it "has developed a field of gravitation around itself through which its achievements and the stability of its policies can also be transferred to other states," said Plassnik, adding that "to an increasing extent the Union will have to deal with the question of what place it is to occupy in the world. In many areas it is doing that already: with regard to the UN, the development cooperation, in questions of trade and in the fight against terrorism."
The Foreign Minister pointed to the European Union’s operations under the security and defence policy and in particular to the police missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Macedonia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; to the ALTHEA military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to the combined military and police mission for the support of the African Union in Darfur. Plassnik also mentioned the rule of law mission in Iraq and the monitoring mission in Aceh, Indonesia.
"These examples illustrate the wide spectrum of tasks covered by the EU in the security and defence policy area alone," said Plassnik, who also paid tribute to the achievements of the Austrian Armed Forces in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Kosovo. "Natural catastrophes always remind us of the important role of the military, even in tasks of an essentially civilian nature," continued Plassnik.
Plassnik also called for "better networking within the EU" in the field of civilian protection. "Europe should be beneficial and protective," said Plassnik.
Plassnik reminded her audience that Europe had developed into the largest zone of prosperity and stability in the world, that it was the largest and most influential trading bloc, that mention could be made of an amazing number of economic success stories, and that within the space of four years a stable, uniform currency had developed which had lead currency and reserve currency status.
"Europe is also the continent that devotes by far the most attention to a sustainable environmental policy," added Plassnik.
"Of course, we cannot expect Europe to resolve all the problems. We have to concentrate on the specific practical tasks, keeping our feet firmly on the ground," concluded Plassnik.
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