Vienna, 20 November 2012 – Two days before the final negotiations of the EU’s financial framework for the next seven years, and a few weeks before the European Council in December, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger presented Austria's position with regard to the EU budget and matters of the future development of European integration in his speech on Europe at the House of the European Union in Vienna today.
"The crisis has shown not only the weaknesses but also the strengths of the European project", the Vice-Chancellor underlined at the beginning of his address. He said that the Union has repeatedly proven itself as a successful project of peace, freedom and economy. And yet, we should not rest on our laurels: "Quite the contrary: Now we know what we could lose. Now is the time to eliminate weaknesses, repair the break lines of our European Community, make reforms and thus put the Union on solid ground. Europe is a work in progress. Only if we join forces we will be able to make it better: more crisis-resistant and more sustainable."
"We will therefore have to focus on the future of Europe now. Learning lessons, improving and solidifying the Union", Spindelegger said and continued: "This is why I am in favour of strengthening the role of the Commissioner for Monetary Affairs. The crisis has clearly demonstrated that a Monetary Affairs Commissioner endowed with more rights of control would have been able to take counteracting measures earlier." Such a step would also include expanding a necessary legal framework in the fiscal and budgetary sphere, the Foreign Minister added.
What is most important, at the moment, is to make European decisions more efficient, he said. Efficiency could be improved by making better use of intensified cooperation: "If a group of states would like to proceed more quickly in a given area, it may do so without putting the Community Method at risk. The financial transaction task, that we advocated so strongly, is a good example of that."
In his address, the Foreign Minister also questioned whether it would be necessary for each member country to have one commissioner in future. "No. Those who believe that asserting Austrian interests depends on the existence of an Austrian commissioner are not aware of the reality. Installing a commissioner merely for reasons of national identification is the wrong approach. This would only be token politics."
There are far more important things to make the future of Europe successful. One central issue is that “the voice of the people of Europe needs to become stronger”, Spindelegger said. "Decisions at the European level require acceptance among the people – and we will only achieve such acceptance if we involve our people to a higher degree than previously. Our people must have a direct say. I would, therefore, like to see the President of the Commission elected in a Europe-wide direct election."
In this context, the Vice-Chancellor repeated his call for convening a reform convention on the EU treaties. "The necessary re-orientation of the Union requires an adjustment of the treaties. I therefore call on the European Council to adopt a basic agreement on an EU Convention at its meeting in December", Spindelegger said and continued: "What we need this time, however, is an open and transparent process. Everybody needs to be involved – the civil society, members of national parliaments, MoEPs and the governments."
The Foreign Minister also spoke very clearly in favour of pushing the expansion process ahead: "It is important for the future of our Europe that the process of unifying the continent be completed. I am aware of the scepticism that many Austrians harbour in this matter. And yet, it is Austria in particular that profits from a higher degree of security and prosperity in our neighbouring countries", Spindelegger said. The EU could by all means cope with an expansion by all Balkan states – which together would roughly correspond to the population of North Rhine Westphalia. “Even more so as these countries will only join gradually, and only when they are ready for it.”
“We have to be sure that our citizens support every step we take. This requires explaining Europe over and over again, discussing it – which is precisely what Reinhold Lopatka and I will be doing more and more in the coming weeks and months”, Spindelegger said announcing the start of the EU Information Tour "Darum Europa".
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