Vienna, 20 November 2012 – During his speech on Europe at the House of the European Union, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger made very clear his own position on the upcoming final negotiation round for the EU budget that will determine its financial outlook for the next seven years. “We are talking about no less than 1000 billion euros. We have to finish what Austrian State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka started, with plenty of tactical skills and tenacity”, emphasised the Vice Chancellor.
In concrete terms, the Foreign Minister expects for instance regulations that will prevent the Commission from being able to automatically increase budgetary expenses: “It is simply not acceptable that all member states take it upon themselves to perform enormous cost-cutting feats in order to consolidate their national budgets while the Commission sees itself as an exception to the rule of economical, efficient budgeting”, Spindelegger said, emphasising Austria’s demands to reduce the Commission budget by 100 billion instead of the 77 billion suggested by President Rompuy. Possibilities of making up the difference of 23 billion include “exterminating duplications, reviewing existing funds and funding priorities from the point of view of economic feasibility and monitoring the efficiency of use of EU funds.”
The sustainable safeguarding of the European lifestyle model would remain the core priority of the financial framework for the coming years. “A healthy agricultural sector is an integral part of this successful model. For this reason, I am not prepared to discuss the cuts that have been suggested and that would reduce the flow of money for agricultural development by up to 30 percent. Countering the argument that this was equivalent to “clientelism”, Spindelegger said: “Yes, that is clientelism. My clientele is each and every Austrian; each and every European. We all want to eat healthily, maintain an intact environment and protect our natural environment on a long-term basis. And we are only able to do all that if we counteract migration from rural areas.”
Spindelegger referred to the question of discounts as the second core topic of the Austrian position. By completely abolishing the existing discount system, Austrian EU contributions would increase by at least 40 percent overnight. This is not acceptable for Austrian citizens who are required to make great sacrifices for national budget cuts. “If the European Union makes no concession with regard to rural development nor to the contributions discount, I demand that the Chancellor exercises the Austrian veto”, said the Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister.
“Furthermore, the billions that make up the EU budget must be used in a way that promotes growth and innovation and strengthens European competitiveness”, Spindelegger continued. “In this context, the same rules apply to both the EU and Austria: small- and medium-sized enterprises must be at the centre of attention. Promoting their power of innovation is the most effective way of increasing competitiveness and improving the market opportunities of the European economy. ”The Foreign Minister also declared himself in favour of concentrating budget efforts on the education sector: “If we want to invest in the future, we must invest in the Erasmus programme and the Horizon 2020 research programme. Europe must focus its attention on the youth of today – also in budgetary terms.”
But the last word has not been spoken yet: “I have enough experience with EU negotiations to know that the biggest and strongest nations don’t necessarily win. The winners will be those who maintain their tough position until the very end and have the most convincing arguments”, Spindelegger concluded.
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