Vienna, 24 October 2008 Press release

Plassnik: "Encouraging young people to co-shape Europe"

Foreign Minister talks to young people and their teachers about shaping Europe’s future

Vienna, 24 October 2008 - "Being allowed to co-shape the future, being an active participant, being prepared to contribute and providing encouragement - that is what the EU is all about. The great responsibility for you as teachers is imparting this knowledge by teaching your students about Europe," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in her speech to teachers and students within the framework of the educators´ seminar ´Teaching about the `EU´ - making it exciting’.

In view of current challenges such as the financial market crisis or the completion of Europe’s reintegration, the Foreign Minister formulated approaches for a future offensive on behalf of Europe: "We must learn from crises. Europe is an organism that is capable of learning and willing to learn. The current financial market crisis and the war in the Caucasus are events from which the EU has been learning a lot," stated Plassnik. "We must be prepared to participate in the shaping of the global village. This is particularly important for smaller and medium-sized states. If we do not want to leave the shaping of the world to the big powers, we as smaller and medium-sized countries must assume concrete responsibility. With last week´s election to the UN Security Council, Austria has demonstrated that it is willing to do so," continued Plassnik.

"We also have to strengthen the European life model. Basically, this means that we have to define exactly why we like being Europeans. But the most urgent task is to encourage people to support the European project. We Austrians must not change sides and join the ranks of the fear-mongers and the fainthearted. Teachers and politicians, of all people, must create confidence and provide encouragement - otherwise they are in the wrong job!" stated the Foreign Minister.

The Foreign Minister repeated her suggestion for the introduction of `EU lessons´ in schools. "I would like to see the subject being taught from the first day at school. But rather than learning about the institutions it should be aimed at raising awareness of how to deal with diversity. Diversity is a characteristic of each of our societies and Europe’s greatest asset," affirmed Plassnik.

The Foreign Ministry serves as a networking and information centre for all citizens, particularly teachers and their students. "We offer a comprehensive information service: numerous brochures, experts, exhibitions, tours for school classes, support for trips to Brussels or Strasbourg. Visit us this Sunday, our Open Day, and get to know the Foreign Ministry from the inside!" concluded Plassnik.

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