Strasbourg, 8 September 2005 - "Today’s talks served to ensure the optimal preparation of the Austrian Presidency", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of her visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Plassnik was accompanied by State Secretary Hans Winkler and Daniela Raschhofer.
"The close cooperation between the Austrian Presidency and the European Parliament is important to me. It should bring true added value for the citizens", said Plassnik, stressing in this connection that the European Parliament was a partner of the Council when strengthening confidence in Europe was at stake. "Together we have to get closer to the citizens", continued Plassnik.
"Austria is prepared to actively use the forthcoming preparation stage, which is also a time for reflection, for ‘genuine talks about Europe’ with its citizens", continued Plassnik, stressing that the time had come to work together with the European Parliament and other partners to provide these talks with a framework and concrete form.
In particular, Plassnik and Winkler held talks with President of the European Parliament Josep Borrell and Secretary General Julian Priestley, the faction and committee chairmen as well as the Austrian Members of the European Parliament. The Foreign Minister discussed the main topics that are expected to dominate the Austrian Presidency, such as the debate about the future of Europe, the financial framework for the period 2007 - 2013, enlargement and the rapprochement of the countries of the Western Balkans with Europe.
"The European Parliament has become a central political contributor at the European level and acts as legislator together with the Council on the majority of issues", said Plassnik. "I have met with great interest as far as a common approach to confidence building is concerned", she continued.
This personal contact with Members of the European Parliament was a good occasion to introduce two pillars of the Presidency team - both highly familiar with the European Parliament - who will ensure permanent contacts and high-quality cooperation. State Secretary Winkler was Austria’s representative in the Council of Europe for many years, and is therefore an expert on parliamentarian life in Strasbourg. Daniela Raschhofer, on the other hand, is familiar with the work of the European Parliament from her own time as a Member.