Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-02-15-Speech-3-087"

PredicateValue (sorted: default)
dcterms:Is Part Of
lpv:document identification number
lpv:translated text
". Mr President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, let me first express my thanks for the very kind introduction. I hope you have not awakened extravagant expectations, but we will do our best. A few days ago, a Member of your House with whom I am well-acquainted – she is herself from Austria – advised me, in my speech before your House today, not to spend too much time on introductory commonplaces, for you often welcome to this rostrum Heads of State or Government from the widest variety of countries as guest speakers, and you are more interested in politics than in being paid compliments. In that case, I shall act on her advice, and hope that she was right. At all events, both the fulfilment of the accession criteria and the European Union’s ability to admit new members are decisive factors in the definition of the political borders of the European project. It is my firm conviction that the Western Balkan states, too, deserve to be offered the prospect of membership, provided that they fulfil the accession criteria when the time comes, but it would be unrealistic at the present time to give binding deadlines or dates. The perspective that I have just tried to outline makes an improved set of rules urgently necessary. It is to be hoped that everybody now realises that an EU of 25 plus cannot work ideally, or perhaps not even satisfactorily, with the structures of the EU of 12. It was, after all, with the purpose of resolving that problem that the European Convention was established, and I believe it did an impressive job of drawing up the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. It was a willingness to compromise that eventually made it possible for all governments and your Parliament, too, to reach agreement on a text which, while not doing all we would wish it to do, is or would be important and useful for the European project as a whole. The negative outcome of the referendums held in two EU Member States has not only brought matters to a halt for the moment but has also put a huge damper on the pro-Europe mood – and moods do play an essential role in politics. We are now in a phase of reflection, but this reflection must be made visible and audible in order to give people the opportunity to agree with or oppose the ideas presented. My personal reflection leads me to the conviction that it would be a mistake to meekly allow the project of a Constitutional Treaty to perish and, in effect, to escort it to the cemetery. I also realise that there are powerful arguments against starting the entire procedure all over again, and that leads me to share the view of all those who believe that once this pause for reflection has come to an end, it would be useful to refocus in a mature manner and with fresh energy on the objectives of the Constitutional Treaty, which will also contribute to strengthening the EU’s democratic parliamentarian system. The Austrian EU Council Presidency is committed to making an effective contribution and to preparing the ground for this. I mentioned the term ‘referendum’ before. Frankly, I am not a supporter of plebiscitary democracy and in Austria we make sparing use of referendums, and rightly so, but, if we make use, or want to make use, of referendums in EU Member States on major European decisions, I consider the current practice of holding a referendum in some Member States and not in others, thereby creating a sort of ‘patchwork of referendums’ across Europe, to be rather unsatisfactory. I think it preferable that an EU-wide referendum be staged on specific matters of particular importance to Europe and that the system of double majority should apply. If this idea were generally welcomed in Europe it would of course also be necessary to reach agreement on the technicalities involved, for example, on how the decision to mount an EU-wide referendum of this kind might be taken. One topic of vital importance – and, from an Austrian standpoint, perhaps the most vital of all – that I should like to discuss is the issue of the social dimension, that is to say, the role played by the social component in European politics. Although it is not a matter of doubt that the market economy has become generally accepted in Europe, such acceptance, when coupled with acceptance of the process of European integration, requires that that market economy should possess an adequate social component, that is to say, that it should be a social market economy that does not regard the individual as a mere cost factor and that is committed to the principle of sustainability. The term ‘human capita’ has always struck me as a rather dubious one. I do not hesitate to affirm that, and I do not think that many will disagree with me when I say that it is quite simply unacceptable that 19 million people should be without jobs. Unemployment is a millstone around Europe’s neck, diminishing its prestige, and reducing it must be a priority at both the national and the European level if we do not want to jeopardise the acceptance of the European model. The two legs that Europe needs in order to stand upright are a sound economy and a sound social symmetry. I am sure you will not mind me saying that I regard myself, in a sense, as an old parliamentary warhorse who is happy to breathe parliamentary air, having been – as your President has just mentioned – for more than thirty years a member of the Austrian parliament. That is a considerable period of time, and for a large part of it the division of Europe into East and West by the Iron Curtain seemed to be an unalterable fact. In this spirit I would welcome it if you were indeed to succeed tomorrow in adopting, on the issue of the Services Directive, a compromise that also takes account of the concerns and unease of employees and many businesspeople. I also believe – and find this reflected in your House’s debate – that it is important to find viable answers to the question of opportunities for control and enforcement capabilities. At the beginning of Austria’s Presidency Salzburg hosted a large discussion on Europe entitled ‘Sound of Europe’, also alluding to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with the stage occupied first by politicians, and then by the performers. The artists, naturally, made use of their right to hold up a mirror to politicians and to point to the imperfections of politics. Whilst I was not actually persuaded by everything that was stated in this context, it remains true that the cultural dimension of the European project contains many buried treasures and still has a lot of untold reserves. It has been pointed out time and again that Europe is more and more able to keep pace with the United States in economic terms but that in military terms – as they say – it is a dwarf, although I find the latter less irritating that its social inequalities. Should we not, though, give closer consideration to how we compare with them on the cultural front? The consistency and volume of Europe’s cultural output, from the Iliad to present day works of art, represent an incredible wealth of treasures, and one in which we can count ourselves second to none. Let us then use this wealth to reinforce our European identity, to remind ourselves of what we hold in common, and, while we are about it, let us not forget that modern art, the creativity of today’s artists, will be the cultural heritage of generations yet to be born. What holds true for art also applies to science and education. Just under two weeks ago, the German Federal President, Horst Köhler, who will himself soon have the honour of speaking to you as I am doing now, welcomed seven presidents of European states to a dialogue in Dresden, which was followed by a discussion with students from over a dozen countries. These students had prepared themselves very thoroughly for this meeting and presented us with a ‘Dresden Manifesto’ containing very concrete demands regarding Europe. One of these demands – and to this I ask you to pay close attention – was for an increase in expenditure on research and development of not merely three per cent of gross national product, but to five per cent of it; a very bold target indeed, but one that is well worth striving for if we are to make Europe a knowledge-based society. The Dresden Manifesto prepared by young students from a large number of European countries also included another demand: it called for the establishment of a common house for European contemporary history that would report objectively on the history of the 20th century and on Europe today and to give a detailed account of the European project. I am sharing – albeit briefly – the content of this manifesto with you today not only to demonstrate to these young people that their requests and concerns are taken seriously by being presented to this highest European forum but also because education and research – as you are all aware – are factors of production of very special quality. Martin Walser once wrote that all that was needed for utopia to stop being a utopia was for it to actually exist. The very real utopia of European peace and the utopia of a sustainable and ecologically responsible economic order need to be supplemented by a cultural utopia and an educational utopia with the elaboration of very specific goals and their implementation as a priority consideration. Austria has held the presidency of the EU Council for exactly one and a half months now and will hand it over at the end of June to the reliable hands of Finland with whom we are cooperating excellently. It is exactly four weeks since Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel addressed the European Parliament and presented the objectives of the Austrian EU Presidency. I do not intend to repeat what was said then but would only like to add that there have been a lot of activities and developments in these four weeks. This relates for instance to the Balkan priority set by the Austrian Presidency, but also to the progress made with respect to the preparations for the EU-Latin America/Caribbean Summit which will be held in Vienna in the middle of May 2006. It has to be said, though, that we were particularly hard hit by the enormous tensions and the acts of violence allegedly triggered by the so-called ‘Mohammed cartoons’, which seem to involve a collision between two mutually-irreconcilable positions: the fundamental principle of the freedom of the press and of expression of opinion on the one hand, and the strong need for the protection of religious sentiment and values on the other. The Russian intellectual Andrej Amalrik had, admittedly, written a fascinating book entitled ‘Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?’, in which he prophesied the collapse of the Soviet system, but this seemed to be out of touch with the political reality at the time. For me, then – and I assume for most of us – the year 1989 and the months before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall were something of a political miracle. Ever since then, I have believed in the possibility of political miracles, or at least in the possibility of that what at first sight appears to be a difficult or even hopeless endeavour being, in fact, accomplished. I regard respect for religious feelings and for what people regard as holy in the truest sense of the word, as an important factor in the coexistence of people and peoples, rather than as an intolerable restriction on a fundamental right. If what one might term a ban on pictorial representation constitutes an integral part of a religion, then one ought not and must not offend against this principle twice – not only by disrespecting this ban, but also by reinforcing this hurtful violation of a taboo in the form of a caricature. The inalienable freedom of art – for the inclusion of which in the Austrian constitution, let me add, I myself spoke up in the Austrian parliament – is subject to legal reservations and demands consideration and respect, and the same applies in the case of the freedom enjoyed by journalists. If billions of people are to live together in peace on one planet, then respect for the values of others and mutual consideration are not luxury items to be discarded at will. This, I might add, holds true in all directions. However, violence and the systematic incitement to violence and taking the law into one’s own hands are certainly not an appropriate response. I respect and hold in high regard those Muslims, in particular, who, in Austria and elsewhere, have made their protest in a clear but peaceful manner. I strongly and unreservedly condemn the attitude of governments who allow diplomatic missions, embassies and innocent people to be attacked and exposed to danger. The willingness and the honest intention to further intensify dialogue between cultures, religions, civilisations and people remains a priority in this context. It is in those terms that I appeal to all concerned. Let me conclude by saying that the European project, being based on the many things we have in common, will be a success. It is for that reason that we have the right and the duty to strengthen the confidence that we will succeed in our endeavour of shaping both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Europe into the Europe of the future. I am very grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to speak up for this before Europe’s highest parliamentary forum and to offer you Austria’s services, and my own, in this cause. At all events, the enthusiasm for the European project received an enormous boost at that time and took an additional dimension. Alongside the principles underlying the European project as conceived by its founding fathers, namely the idea of peace and the ideal of personal and economic freedom of movement in the largest possible European area, for millions of people who had to live with all of four decades of Communist dictatorship after the end of the Second World War, it opened up the prospect of being able to lead a life in democracy and freedom after all. It was therefore inevitable that, after the collapse of Communism and the enlargement of the European Union from 12 to 15 Member States – which was indeed to Austria’s benefit – the topic of another, new round of enlargement, which was also seen as a kind of reunification of Europe, would appear on the agenda. It was not easy, but we have, in the meantime – in 2004 – achieved that, and Bulgaria and Romania may be expected to join soon. The name of Croatia may also be mentioned in this context. In the wake of this development the issues of the borders of Europe and the European identity are increasingly being raised. Much has been said and written about the borders of Europe, but sometimes the answers to complex issues are relatively straightforward. Being uncontested, Europe’s geographical borders to the West, North and South are easily defined. To the East, the geographic borders of Europe neither correspond to the cultural and historical borders nor are they identical with the existing national borders. For the European project of the future we are therefore obliged to draw meaningful political borders – which do not have to be eternal – and, across these borders and through intensive cooperation with the neighbouring countries, to develop partnerships – something that can be summed up under the heading of ‘wider Europe’."@en1

Named graphs describing this resource:


The resource appears as object in 2 triples

Context graph