Vienna, 6 July 2005 - Addressing the National Council on the occasion of the presentation of the new State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Hans Winkler, Foreign Minister Plassnik stated: "I am pleased that Dr. Winkler is joining our team: we have a long-standing professional relationship based on mutual trust. I know that State Secretary Winkler will undertake every effort to provide the utmost support to the entire federal government during Austria’s Presidency of the European Union".
Plassnik pointed out that the appointment should also be regarded as a signal, underlining the professional and serious manner in which Austria is preparing for her EU Presidency. "Because the Presidency is a service we will be performing for our partners, for Europe and the world at large. To believe that the Presidency was a mere occasion for representation or even electioneering would be completely absurd", the Foreign Minister continued.
"We want to contribute our share to Europe by pursuing a committed and active Presidency, by preparing matters in a prudent manner and acting as bridge builders", Plassnik stressed. A feeling of uneasiness and anger was perceptible in Europe, but positive expectations were also increasingly gaining ground. A focal point in this connection was the European Constitution, which had not been relegated to the wastepaper basket. "On the contrary, the Constitution has just been ratified by Cyprus, the Maltese Parliament is voting on it today, and Luxembourg will hold a referendum on Sunday", the Foreign Minister explained, emphasising that each and every Member State should be given the opportunity to express its own opinion on the Constitution.
Plassnik then issued a call for pro-active participation in the debate on the future of Europe: "In my view the crucial point of this debate is the question of how we want to live. It is about our specific European model of life: we want to live in peace; we want to further develop the European peace project for our generation, preserve a healthy environment, safeguard jobs, maintain the social security networks and uphold diversity. We will be promoting a discussion in which we invite controversial views. With respect to Austria I think that it is important to re-strengthen people’s awareness of the fact that we benefit from Europe and that Europe protects us", concluded the Foreign Minister.