Sobotka: Close Cooperation between EU Parliament and National Parliaments a Necessity in Europe's Interest

Austrian Parliament, 19 June 2018

Exchange of views with European Parliament (EP) President Tajani and EP parliamentary group leaders in the run-up to the Austrian Presidency of the EU

Vienna – On the eve of Austria taking up the EU Council Presidency, which also includes a vital parliamentary dimension, parliamentarians from all five parties represented in the Austrian Parliament today met the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and leaders of the EP’s parliamentary groups for an exchange of views on key agenda points for the following six months. The meeting was chaired by Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the Austrian National Council, and the President of the Austrian Federal Council, Reinhard Todt.

National Council President Sobotka: Parliament is planning its own initiatives to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the Western Balkans

Mr Sobotka underlined the growing importance of the parliamentary dimension and close coordination between the national parliament of the country holding the Presidency and the European Parliament in order for progress in the common European interest to be made. It was generally agreed that an intense exchange of different arguments at parliamentary level is both important and necessary and contributes significantly to the success of a citizen-oriented Europe. Additional formats were certainly worth considering in the interest of closer cooperation. In this context, Mr Tajani expressed his regrets that, unlike national parliaments, the European Parliament still had no right of initiative.

National Council President Sobotka considers the inter-parliamentary meetings scheduled for the autumn on the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the EU’s economic and fiscal policy, as well as the Conference of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat-PV) to be great opportunities for creating parliamentary impetus. He underlined the European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans as being of particular concern and called upon the guests to continue to actively support these countries on their path towards EU membership. A parliamentary conference to be held on 9 October will address this issue, and the President of the National Council also announced plans for initiatives to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the Western Balkans.

Federal Council President Todt: “We need a Europe that protects social cohesion”

Drawing on the motto of the Austrian Presidency "A Europe that protects", the President of the Federal Council stressed that this should not only be seen from the point of view of security policy, but just as importantly from a socio-political perspective.“ We need a Europe that protects the social cohesion of society in the EU and beyond,” Todt said. He continued that Europe was currently facing great challenges and is exposed to massive pressure, not only from external political circumstances, but also from developments within the Union. The focus must therefore be on a united Europe, on creating a pole of stability from which security, peace and social prosperity can emanate. This position was supported by many of those present, with some voicing vehement support for a social union. There was also agreement on the need to devote even more attention, particularly at parliamentary level, to the issue of digitalisation, especially in connection with the issue of social protection. The Austrian Federal Council has been exploring these questions intensively for a considerable amount of time.

As President of the Chamber of the Austrian Länder, Todt also attaches importance to the principle of subsidiarity, but warned against abusing it for nationalist purposes.

EP President Tajani: Resolving the migration issue is a matter of survival for the EU

Austrian parliamentarians and their EP counterparts agreed that solving the migration issue was one of the main challenges ahead, although approaches differed. Tajani emphatically warned that in the absence of a European solution, there would be national solutions, giving rise to conflicts between Member States that threatened the survival of the Union. In his view, the protection of external borders and close cooperation with third countries are necessary, but solidarity has to go hand in hand with decisiveness. Tajani can imagine the establishment of hotspots, but financial decisions will have to be made. He sees the involvement of the UN and the strict safeguarding of human rights as indispensable prerequisites if this materialises.

Parliamentarians also expressed their deep concern about aggressive trade policies seen in some countries which require a clear response from the EU. The steel sector, one of the key areas of European industrial policy, is particularly affected in this context.

Tajani also intends to focus on climate protection and does not see economic policy as an opposing force. On the contrary, he believes a digitalised economy and the promotion of e-mobility will reduce emissions. Europe should continue to develop its pioneering role, Tajani said, although he acknowledged that the current US policy is making global climate protection more difficult.

The meeting also briefly addressed the Multiannual Financial Framework, whereby Tajani reaffirmed the position of the European Parliament in favour of an increase to 1.3% of gross national income. He stressed that this does not mean that citizens will have to pay more, but rather that there is a need for more capital resources.

Participants at the meeting included Doris Bures, Second President of the National Council, August Wöginger, leader of the ÖVP parliamentary group, Matthias Strolz, leader of the NEOS parliamentary group, Reinhold Lopatka (ÖVP), Georg Strasser (ÖVP), Simone Graf (ÖVP)Thomas Drozda (SPÖ), Jessi Lintl (FPÖ), Susanne Fürst (FPÖ), Claudia Gamon (NEOS), Martha Bißmann (PILZ), Federal Council members Ferdinand Tiefnig (ÖVP) and Elisabeth Grimling (SPÖ) and MEP Josef Weidenholzer (SPÖ) as member of the EU delegation.

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