Sobotka on EU Presidency: The Focus Must Be on Respectful Co-operation in the Interest of Common Solutions
Austrian Parliament, 9 July 2018
National Council President Sobotka and Federal Council President Posch-Gruska open the Meeting of the Chairpersons of COSAC in the Hofburg’s Redoute Wing.
Vienna (PK) –During its EU Presidency Austria is seeking to highlight ways to engage in respectful co-operation, underscored National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka, addressing the Chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), who met today for a conference in the Hofburg’s Redoute Wing. Differing positions must be accorded acceptance and respect; essentially the primary focus must be on finding common solutions.
Sobotka: The EU is not falling apart
Europe must aim to strike a more unified stance, Sobotka stressed. He said that he was not among those who believed that Europe was at a crossroads and would fall apart in light of the major challenges it faces. After all, the EU has overcome a significant number of crises, Austria’s National Council President pointed out, stressing the need for a positive attitude. At the same time he cautioned against jeopardising the achievements of peace, prosperity, the rule of law and democracy. On the other hand, citizens’ fears, concerns and needs must not be ignored, he added.
Sobotka sees a key focus of parliamentarianism on making a key contribution toward reinforcing the rule of law and legal certainty and on bringing the EU closer to its citizens. He also reiterated his conviction that parliamentary co-operation was more important than ever.
Today’s meeting of the Chairpersons of COSAC, led by the Chair of the Austrian National Council’s Sub-Committee for Union Affairs Reinhold Lopatka, and the Chair of the Federal Council’s Committee for Union Affairs Christian Buchmann, marks the beginning of the “Parliamentary Dimension” of Austria’s EU Presidency. Representatives from the countries of the Western Balkans were also on hand for the conference. The chairpersons of the parliaments of the presidency trio (Bulgaria, Austria Romania) met yesterday.
The participants were greeted by National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka and Federal Council President Inge Posch-Gruska. State Secretary Karoline Edtstadler outlined the priorities of Austria’s EU Presidency, and the conference participants discussed the future and the perspectives of the EU with First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead MacGuiness
Sobotka: Migration question is the issue of the 21st century
Austria’s National Council President pointed to the enormous tasks currently facing the European Union both within the EU and on the global stage. Sobotka underscored the security and migration crisis as particular difficulties, as these issues were of significant emotional import for the EU’s citizens. The increased threat of terror since the 2015 attack in Paris has led to improved European co-operation among security forces, and in turn to the thwarting of new attacks. Sobotka described combating so-called foreign terrorist fighters, radical Islam in both Europe and beyond, and cybercrime in all its forms as key challenges ahead.
Migration is the key issue of the 21st century, and the prerequisites for effectively protecting the EU’s external borders have yet to be met, he criticised. Consequently, the National Council President explicitly lent his backing to the most recent Council resolution on strengthening external border protections and expanding the mandate of Frontex. At the same time Sobotka advocated enhanced efforts toward integration and providing local support in migrants’ countries of origin.
Moreover, the Austrian EU Presidency must move forward with the negotiations on the Multi-Annual EU Budget with a focus on improving efficiency and reducing the tensions among net contributors, the European Commission and the European Parliament, said Sobotka. Although the financial crisis has largely been overcome, he also pointed out that the Banking Union had yet to be completed, and the euro had not yet attained an importance worthy of it as a European currency.
An issue of great importance to Sobotka is bringing the countries of the Western Balkans closer to the EU to guarantee stability in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. The Austrian Parliament is seeking to contribute and is undertaking initiatives aimed at furthering parliamentarianism in the region, including a scholarship programme for parliamentarians and employees of parliamentary administrations. Furthermore, the Austrian Parliament’s Democracy Workshop is already supporting Montenegro and Kosovo in programmes aimed at communicating parliamentary work and democracy. Other countries have also demonstrated an interest, he said.
Sobotka also identified other key issues ahead, such as Brexit, while also underscoring the necessity for a united stance among the EU 27. He characterised the transatlantic relationship as a central pillar of European policy that was, however, forcing the EU to confront large-sale economic and diplomatic challenges. He advocated strong and clear responses from the EU. Concerning dialogue with Russia, he said that long-term stability in the EU’s neighbourhood would only be possible if Russia was also allowed a place at the table.
Posch-Gruska: Subsidiarity must not be misused for nationalist purposes
Austrian Federal Council President Inge Posch-Gruska characterised the Federal Council as a “European chamber and a chamber of the future”, as it sees itself as the link between the EU and its citizens. For that reason subsidiarity monitoring is a particular focus of the Federal Council’s work, as it is made up of representatives of Austria’s regional parliaments, Ms. Posch-Gruska stressed, pointing out that the Federal Council’s Committee for Union Affairs was one of the most active in the EU.
As important as subsidiarity is in light of the EU’s need to be close to its citizens, the Federal Council President also urgently cautioned against misusing the principle for nationalist purposes. Rather the focus must be on restoring the trust of the EU’s citizens, she said. (Continuation COSAC)
PLEASE NOTE: Photos of this event can be found at the website of the Austrian Parliament at www.parlament.gv.at/SERV/FOTO/ARCHIV.
For more information on the Parliamentary Dimension of the Austrian EU Presidency, go to www.eu2018parl.at.
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