Vienna, 9 June 2004 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner warns against irresponsible approach to the EU Constitution


Foreign Minister received the Spanish Minister for European Affairs, citing the composition of the EU Commission and the weighting of votes in the Council as key Austrian concerns

Vienna, 9 June 2004 - Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner received the Spanish Minister for European Affairs Alberto Navarro González for talks in Vienna today. The meeting focussed on a comprehensive exchange of ideas and opinions on the Intergovernmental Conference, which is due to be brought to a successful conclusion at the European Council in Brussels next week.

Ferrero-Waldner thanked her Spanish guest for the contribution the new Spanish government had made to setting the negotiations in motion again, and the two ministers agreed that both Spain and Austria had every reason to be completely satisfied with most of the results so far achieved by the Intergovernmental Conference. Nevertheless, Ferrero-Waldner pointed to the differences of opinion that exist with regard to the as yet unresolved institutional questions. "Today's talks above all gave us the opportunity to explore the underlying reasons for our different standpoints in more detail. We have had no chance to do this until today, but it was essential that we hold this discussion. Because only if we are familiar with all aspects of these complex issues will we be able to arrive at a joint solution when the time comes", said the Foreign Minister.

Following the talks Ferrero-Waldner said she was confident that the Spanish government now knew exactly what the Austrian position was with regard to the final found of negotiations, explicitly citing the following points: "First, that the composition of the Commission is an absolutely essential factor determining the population's acceptance of the EU as a whole, and second, that when it comes to the weighting of votes in the Council the correct balance must be achieved between large and small Member States - as has always been the case in the history of the EU." Ferrero-Waldner continued: "The Enlargement must not be taken as an occasion to bring about a disproportion between large and small Member States, because the small states are in the majority."

Concluding, the Foreign Minister said it had been "valuable" to discuss these questions in detail with the Spanish Minister for European Affairs. "We must not approach the final round of negotiations in an irresponsible manner. If we want to reach a successful conclusion next week we have still got a lot of hard work to do", Ferrero-Waldner warned.