Vienna, 29 October 2007 - "Austria and Finland joined the European Union 12 years ago. Today, our countries are not only equal partners but meanwhile have become significant providers of ideas in a united Europe", said State Secretary Hans Winkler after talks he had today with Finnish Foreign Ministry State Secretary, Teja Tilikainen.
"The EU accession was the initial impulse for an increasing economic interconnection of our countries’ business locations. In the case of Austria, exports have doubled within the last 10 years. At the same time, imports rose by approximately 75 percent. It was above all our EU membership that enabled us to make a clever use of the opportunities presented by the fall of the Iron Curtain", said Winkler.
"Just as Finland, Austria began its EU membership in a state of euphoria. In 1994, 66.64 % of Austrians voted in favour of accession to the EU. Today, opinion polls show that at least two thirds of Austrians are still against the idea of leaving the EU one day", said the State Secretary.
"When people sometimes blame the EU for unpleasant developments, closer scrutiny often reveals that this has more to do with globalization than with the EU itself. Individual states or individual regions do not lose their importance in the EU, and this will not change in the future. The EU is not a ‘superstate’, and it should not become one either. Instead, our intention is to generate a European surplus value within the EU through close cooperation. What we need today is a well-coordinated and functional Europe that pays attention to the worries and anxieties of the citizens and is prepared for future challenges. The new EU Reform Treaty provides us with the necessary future-safe foundation for further work in the EU", stressed the State Secretary. "Untrue, oversimplified, or even stereotype explanations attributing all the problems to the EU may be tempting. Winkler is convinced, however, that at the end of the day, "objective and peaceful information is the better recipe for success".
With regard to the compatibility of the Austrian neutrality with the European Reform Treaty, the State Secretary emphasized that "During the negotiations, it was also particularly important for us to leave all options open, so as not to prejudice our internal political decision-making process. This was managed not only in the political practice so far, but was also reflected in the corresponding Articles of the Reform Treaty. There is no obligation for any country to participate in multinational troops and their military operations. Every single country - and this also applies to Austria - is explicitly free to decide anytime in favour or against a participation", said the State Secretary.
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