Vienna, 31 August 2006 - "Europe is not an abstract community of values. On the contrary, we must act on the basis of our shared values: Belarus, the caricature crisis, support for the UN reform, Guantanamo, and relations with Hamas during Austria’s EU Presidency are examples that show that European basic values are implemented in our everyday work in a calm but resolute manner," said the Foreign Minister in a speech given at the invitation of the Summer Academy Europe organised by the Bertelsmann Foundation in Aschau/Chiemgau on 30 August 2006.
"Austria embarked on the Presidency with the aim of creating more momentum, more confidence and more clarity for Europe. This has been achieved. Greater momentum in particular was the main theme at the EU economic summit in March, which was devoted to the promotion of jobs for young people, their training, better conditions for SMEs and more investment in research and development. Confidence-building has been a special priority for us since the negative referendum on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands. It is important to me to address this feeling of unease openly. The initiative "Europe is listening" gave an important stimulus in the search for new ways to communicate with the public. Confidence-building has to be a political theme which we are working on constantly. But a better understanding also calls for a new language," said Plassnik, quoting Ingeborg Bachmann’s "No new world without a new language."
Referring to the debate on the European Constitution, the Foreign Minister said: "The core question is: how do we want to live in future? The catalogue of objectives of the European Constitution answers this question clearly with the slogan "united in diversity". The essence of the European life model, which we are working to promote and consolidate, is to find a balance between social justice, sustainability, solidarity and respect for diversity on the one hand and Europe’s goal of being a competitive continent on the other. In Klosterneuburg during the Austrian Presidency, we established the basis for continuing the constitutional process together. Apart from anything else, it is the first joint project of the EU’s 25 Member States," said the Foreign Minister.
Plassnik expressed her conviction that Europe was also developing a joint feeling for limitations. "Europe has always been the expression of what its members could agree upon at any given time. These members are the states and the citizens. First there was a common administration of the iron and steel industry, followed by a customs union, and finally Europe as an economic and a monetary union. The issue today is to finally overcome divisions in Europe. The Austrian Presidency therefore focused deliberately on the Balkans as well: there must not be a zone of instability between Greece and Italy. The Salzburg Declaration confirmed the accession perspectives for the Western Balkan states - which had been set down at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003. We must never forget that for the Western Balkan states the accession perspective is the driving force behind the reforms," said Plassnik, emphasising that "the Balkans are also an interesting partner as far as their relations with the Islamic world are concerned. With their Muslim/European dimension they could help to transport European values into the Arab world," said the Foreign Minister.
"The caricature crisis clearly demonstrated the importance of relations based on mutual trust both within the EU and outside it. It must be our goal to move from a life next to each other to a life based on togetherness and trust. We have to find specific responses to the practical challenges. They are the explicit and practical perspectives for the future that concern young people and women in particular: access to schooling, training and education" said Plassnik.
Plassnik clearly affirmed that the EU has a common foreign policy, citing the European commitment in the Middle East as an example where Europe was assuming a new function and enjoying a lot of confidence. "Europe is making an important contribution and one that is desired by all partners - both in its border mission at Rafah and in the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 in southern Lebanon," concluded Plassnik.
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