Vienna, 24 September 2012 Press release

Spindelegger in Harvard: Rebuff for pessimists in the USA and EU

Austrian Vice-Chancellor defends the euro at the renowned US university and emphasises Austria’s performance on the international stage

Vienna, 24 September 2012 – “The crisis of the euro poses no risk for the future of the European Union”, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said in his address at the US Ivy League university Harvard.

Against the backdrop of frequent criticism from the USA, Spindelegger underlined the strengths and future perspectives of the euro and the European Union. An economic comparison with the USA would show very clearly that “despite all the negative financial news of the past few weeks and months, the euro remains strong, which goes to prove the robustness of our currency” he said.

Even though some of the base data in the USA are significantly weaker than those in the EU, the USA brims over with self-confidence, while people in Europe tend to indulge in self doubt and anxieties about the future, Spindelegger said. He by no means challenged the central partnership between the USA and Europe in his key address: “The USA and the EU together account for 60 percent of the world‘s gross product. The nature of this partnership, however, extends far beyond the mere economic dimension. It is a relationship based on a common understanding of values that both of our nations aim to promote and to secure. Our combined economic and political power puts us at the centre of the international system, which also gives us special responsibility”, Spindelegger said.

The Vice-Chancellor was fully committed to this responsibility also in the light of the most recent troubles in Libya which he decisively condemned. He demanded that the new Libya, which owes so much to the international community of states for supporting the country in its fight for freedom, put an end to the escalation and hold the people in responsible accountable.

The role of Austria in this international community of states was the focus of the Vice-Chancellor’s address: “Our experience in the UNO and the EU confirms that small countries – irrespective of their geographic size – can score in the multilateral environment.” Spindelegger substantiated this with the Austrian recipe for success: “If you are small, as Austria is, you need to be smart and flexible and you have to specialise in specific issues.” An overview of the central issues of Austria’s foreign policy was intended to make the positive image of Austria complete.

The Vice-Chancellor stressed his commitment within the EU. Together with a group of ten foreign ministers of the EU, he submitted a plan for the future of Europe last week. “Our absolute priority at the moment is the consolidation of the economic and currency union. However, as soon as the immediate crisis is overcome, we will have to improve the general system of the EU“, Spindelegger said. The Vice-Chancellor also referred to Austria’s pronounced involvement in regional initiatives. “The EU Strategy for the Danube Region is based on a joint initiative of Austria and Romania. The strategy will provide us with better opportunities to fully profit from the growth potential in this region.”

He said that Austria has profited from its membership in the EU ever since its accession. “The economic growth of Austria as a net contributor has always exceeded the EU average over the past ten years – and this trend is continuing in 2012.” Austria’s ties to Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe are also a success story, he said. “Austria is the biggest direct foreign investor in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia“, Spindelegger said. Austria is also intensifying its relations to the countries of the Black Sea region. “In the past three years, Austria was the biggest direct investor in Turkey – a country with a population ten times that of Austria.”

Austria would not have to shy the limelight of the international and European stage. “Austria may be small, but in terms of its economy and the resources produced by the country and its people, we outperform many larger nations”, the Vice-Chancellor concluded.

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