Vienna, 16 November 2007 - "With the new EU Reform Treaty, which constitutes a modern instruction manual for the common Europe, we have created a solid foundation for the EU’s future work," stated the Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry, Johannes Kyrle, before the Consular Corps in Klagenfurt, referring to the EU Reform Treaty concluded a short while ago.
"The future Treaty of Lisbon makes the European Union more democratic, better understandable and more capable of taking action. It strengthens the rights of citizens through the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which has now become binding, and leads to a consolidation of the citizens’ participation rights through the introduction of a European referendum," said Kyrle. It rendered Europe more democratic and efficient through modern tools, a clearer description of tasks and modern control rights for citizens and member states. "In the fields of police and judiciary in particular, we want and need better cooperation in this common space of freedom, security and law. The forthcoming enlargement of the Schengen area, which will include our neighbouring states, demonstrates this more clearly still. The new Treaty is now providing us with the necessary tools," affirmed Kyrle.
The Secretary General emphasised that the Treaty did not in any way weaken the position of the smaller states within the EU: "On the contrary, the Treaty rather strengthens the solid European middle class of small and medium-sized states," said Kyrle. "For the first time the Union will also experience a considerable enhancement of the social dimension by focusing its objectives on a social market economy and full employment," he continued.
Kyrle emphasised that the EU Reform Treaty constituted a "further development of the legal basis"” which had been repeatedly adjusted in the past to meet the requirements of the times. For this reason, as in the case of the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, no referendum was necessary.
"The Federal Government and in particular the Foreign Ministry are undertaking all efforts to provide objective information about the Reform Treaty. The focus here is on "patient and persistent work to convince the citizens," continued Kyrle. Among other things, the Secretary General referred to one of the Foreign Ministry brochures that outlines the key contents of the Reform Treaty and can be downloaded from the Foreign Ministry’s website. Further information may also be obtained from the Europe hotline operated by the Federal Government (tel. 0800-22 1111, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Commenting on the alleged scepticism of the public towards the EU, the Secretary General stressed that public opinion in Austria was stable: "The Austrians are satisfied sceptics. If the question on withdrawal from the EU is asked, we see that from 1994 onwards we have had a clear two-thirds majority in favour of Austria’s membership of the European Union." "Cyclical fluctuations" apart, the Austrians were perfectly aware what the EU was of benefit to them, and young people’s clear support for the EU was particularly encouraging in this context.
Kyrle also emphasised that Austria, after being on the "margin of Europe" for 40 years, had been reaping enormous benefits since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and particularly since the accession of its central European neighbours to the EU, and was now once again in the very midst of a dynamic region with great future potential. "From the economic angle it has to be stated that Austria is in a good position. Our economy was among the first to enter the new markets after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989/1990, thus securing a considerable market share. In 2006, our exports to the region increased by up to 40%, while exports to the new Member States Bulgaria and Romania rose by 24% and 31%, respectively. As far as direct investments are concerned, Austrian companies have taken the lead, which in turn strengthens Austria-based companies and creates further jobs," concluded Kyrle.
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