Vienna, 21 December 2005 - On the occasion of the statement of government policy in the National Council today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik spoke of the tasks facing Austria as it takes over the EU Council Presidency.
Now that the lead curtain of the Financial Perspective had been removed, said Plassnik, the Austrian Presidency had its hands free to address the most urgent issues on the EU agenda. The Austrian Presidency had a demanding task in front of it. "We will take advantage of the positive mood following a lean year in Europe in 2005. It is important to shift our attention away from the deficiencies towards the achievements of this European community devoted to peace and solidarity and to concentrate on the list of specific projects," said the Foreign Minister.
As a starting point, Plassnik referred to three fundamental objectives that the Austrian Presidency had set for itself: more confidence by our citizens in a unified Europe, more clarity concerning the future course of the EU and greater élan for our shared European project, in particular with regard to the economy and to employment.
Plassnik emphasised that these objectives could not be achieved overnight and that there were no patent recipes. "We need to talk openly about the problems and put an end to the refusal to discuss issues. It is a time for rationality and precision." Solutions could be found, continued the Foreign Minister, only by all 25 Member States of the EU together. The necessary answers should not be sought in small groups or other group experiments at the European level.
"What we need now is a choreography, including a plan for the Constitutional Treaty, which we will develop with our partners as part of a team. We shall not hide behind the President’s chair nor will we forget national interests." Europe must move from a consolidation phase to a phase of explanation and specificity.
Regarding the EU’s external relations, Plassnik pointed in particular to the recognition of candidate status for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans. "The European peace project must also include our neighbours in South Eastern Europe. We need a policy of encouragement rather than dejection," said the Foreign Minister.