Rotating EU Presidency: Austria’s turn

Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, sums up Austria’s three key words for the next six months:

“If you allow me to formulate three wishes, they would be these: more confidence, more clarity and more momentum.”

Now that a compromise has been found on EU financing until 2013, Austria intends to give priority to three major issues: the European constitution, the very meaning of the European Union and the limits of its enlargement. For reasons of both historical and geographical affinities, Vienna will focus in particular on the Balkans, with the potential accession of Macedonia or Croatia. Concerning Turkey, an accession towards which Austria has never hidden its reservations, there is no rush, it is too early to predict with certainty the opening of negotiations in the next six months, as Ursula Plassnik, the head of Austrian diplomacy, repeats.

As for the European constitution, Austria rules out any new attempt at ratification before the elections in France and the Netherlands, two countries that rejected the text by referendum. Ursula Plassnik:

“We are neither magicians nor the artistic directors of the European Union, who can set everything in motion by themselves, let’s be realistic. We approach this issue with an awareness of what is feasible and what is not.”

Angela Merkel announced that Germany did not expect to renegotiate any changes to the constitution, the text of which was ratified by the German parliament.

On the economic side, the Austrian presidency should not change the liberal course of European policy. The Austrian “model” works with the same recipes as elsewhere in Europe: more flexible labor market, reduced employer contributions, lower direct taxes, and, as a corollary, reforms of the pension and social protection systems.

This article is originally published on dw.com

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