“The European Union objectives of peace, liberty and prosperity are as relevant as ever. Unfortunately, however, we have often taken a wrong turn in the past. The Brexit referendum acted as a wake-up call for us all“, said Federal Minister for Europe Sebastian Kurz in a statement issued on the occasion of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union Address held on 13 September. “We therefore need a change of course in the EU”, emphasised Kurz.
The principle of subsidiarity should lie at the heart of this change of course. Kurz therefore backs “Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently” of the White Paper on the Future of Europe that President Juncker presented in the spring of this year. “Subsidiarity does not mean ‘no Europe’, but rather a stronger Europe when it comes to the important issues“, said Kurz. In contrast, the EU should give back control to the member states or regions on issues that they could better regulate themselves.
“What we don‘t need is a Union that lays down detailed rules governing the colour of chips. What we do need, however, is a Union that is able to guarantee security for its citizens.”
“What is needed is firm action to combat terrorism and, in particular, the effective protection of EU external borders”,
emphasised the Federal Minister for Europe. Kurz called for a fundamental change in the EU‘s approach in order to take control of the migrant crisis. Following the successful closure of the Western Balkan Route, what remains is to come up with a sustainable solution to the Central Mediterranean Route. “The decrease in the amount of arrivals in Italy in the past two months shows that successful action can be taken“, continued Kurz.
Our immediate neighbours, the Western Balkan countries, are also faced with threats caused by radicalisation and illegal migration. Stability and security can only be ensured by providing these countries with a credible EU perspective. “The EU must not allow a vacuum to form in the Balkan countries, something which others would be quick to fill”, said Kurz
“On the contrary, in light of the developments in Turkey, such as the detainment of numerous journalists, I see no prospect whatsoever of full EU membership. The accession negotiations must therefore be broken off and pre-accession aid halted“,
explained Kurz, who also spoke out against resuming negotiations on the modernisation of the customs union.
Kurz also stressed that past mistakes must be rectified. “We are currently seeing a large number of people moving to Austria and making use of the welfare system. But that is not how a welfare state such as Austria works. I‘m a great advocate of the four EU freedoms, including the free movement of persons, but the freedom to work anywhere must not to be confused with the freedom to select the best welfare system“, said Kurz in a clear rebuff to the “fantasies of a social union”.
“For a small country such as Austria, dependent on export and at the centre of the European continent, European integration is the only option! This, in particular, means that we must not be indifferent to the development of the European Union“, clarified Kurz.
“We are responsible for ensuring that Europe develops in the right direction and also that the unity between EU member states is safeguarded during this process. Austria will continue to play an active and positive role in this respect – in particular during the EU presidency that we will hold in the second half of 2018.”