Vienna, 9 May 2013 Press release

Spindelegger: "The President of the EU Commission should be elected directly by the people of Europe"

On Europe Day 2013 Austrian Vice-Chancellor demands more democracy at EU level

Vienna, 9 May 2013 – "One of the most plainly visible benefits of the European Union is our right of free movement. I can get into my car today and drive from Vienna to Prague and on to Berlin without having to stop at a border.This is the right that is dearest to the people of the Union", Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Europe Day, referring to the many great benefits of EU citizenship. Other benefits include strengthened consumer rights and the possibility for young people to study abroad in the framework of the Erasmus programme. "In many cases, people are not even aware that all these various opportunities are made possible by the EU. Creating awareness of the rights of EU citizens and of the many facilities and options open to young people in particular is therefore one of the primary objectives of this year's European Year of Citizens", the Vice-Chancellor said.

Another vital concern is the importance of the democratic say that EU citizens have, above all with regard to the future of the EU. "If more powers are transferred to EU bodies, it is even more important that the citizens support these steps and that democratic legitimation of EU decisions is ensured", Spindelegger said. According to the most recent Euro barometer survey, only 35 percent of Austrians have the feeling that their vote counts in the EU, while 62 percent think their vote is of no relevance at all. Spindelegger is thus demanding more visibility of the EU players to stimulate the European-wide political debate. "Why not have the President of the Commission elected by the people directly? If we do this Europe will be given a human face and the President of the Commission would have a much clearer mandate of responsibility to Europe and its citizens. Direct election means direct responsibility", the Vice-Chancellor said.

"In the EU Town Hall Meetings, where I meet hundreds of Austrians to discuss EU matters in every province of our country, I always note the great interest people have in the EU but also the great demand that exists for information about new developments within the European Union. I would like to respond to these demands in a lively, open dialogue with the people", the Foreign Minister said and referred to his most recent initiative, the EU Town hall Meetings. State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka is also busy on the road touring Austrian companies on his DARUM EUROPA information tour to discuss the European Union and Austria's membership in the EU with the workforce. "Europe cannot be created without its people. We need their backing, their support, and above all their ideas and wishes for taking Europe into the future. I am convinced that acceptance of the EU will only be ensured if it justifies its existence through visible success", the Vice-Chancellor concluded.

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