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Speeches, Interviews

19.04.2006

European Subsidiarity Conference, Welcome and Opening Address by Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel


Welcome and Introduction of the 3rd Panel: Subsidiarity and Better Regulation

 

It is a particular pleasure for me to be able to present a new highlight to you today at this subsidiarity conference, which we are holding as a sort of follow-up on the Dutch and British initiatives and which we willingly and consciously have made a central issue of our Austrian presidency. I don’t think there has ever been a conference where all institutions were represented at the very highest level, and I am very happy that Edmund Stoiber, prime minister of Bavaria, has also joined us here.

After listening to his explanations, we will hear an interesting contribution by Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission, who is going to talk about the ‘better legislation’ in the European Union.

I would also like to welcome Joseph Daul. He is the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of the Committees of the European Parliament, and thus together with President Borrell one of the key players regarding the ideas and intentions of the European Parliament.

I also welcome as speakers two representatives from central institutions who normally do not participate in such conferences. These are the President of the European Court of Justice, Vassilios Skouris, and as a counterpart, so to speak, the president of the Austrian constitutional court, Karl Korinek.

Accordingly, I think the decisive questions in the first round of our discussion are thus obvious. I would just like to add what we are interested in within the framework of the Austrian presidency. Our minister of foreign affairs will present these issues to you in greater detail.

What we are interested in is this: we want to react to the concerns and worries of our citizens by offering them the most concrete answers and best possible solutions. No rhetoric but concrete results. We don’t want to be part of the problem, we want to tell them that Europe has to be part of the solution. That’s the answer I was looking for, maybe in a rather naïve way. That means we have to take what citizens are concerned about, what worries them, seriously. We have to listen to what they say, we have to try to come up with concrete proposals for the various questions raised by them. If they are worried about centralisation, one of the possible magic words might be subsidiarity, if it is understood and explained correctly. If some people complain about ‘over-regulation’, then ‘better regulation’ might be a possible solution to offer them. If in some countries citizens are concerned about being put at a disadvantage, that they have to contribute too much to the EU budget as net payers, and don’t get enough out of it, then a more balanced financial regulation with better resources, which certainly is not 100% but has to be a bit more than the present 10%, could be a possible solution.

If we say that Europe is too distanced from its citizens and that they cannot identify with the European institutions, then the answer has be reaching out to the citizens, let’s no longer stay inside our concrete walls in Brussels, rather let’s become tangible to the citizens so they can see who we are.

If people are afraid of neo-liberalism – as are many trade unions, employees but also small businesses – then the correct definition of the European social model, “the European way of life”, might be a reasonable and good answer. And if parts of the media live from the fact that some of the institutions are playing “catch as catch can”, then the effort of our presidency – and that’s why I would like to thank you very much for coming – is to present ourselves as a ‘team presidency’, that this hand-in-hand cooperation is what we are doing and not the tête-à-tête confrontation that the citizens sometimes see. That is the way European institutions should be perceived. That is our approach.

I think we will have a very interesting and exciting discussion this morning. I am very pleased that I am able to formally chair this conference and would now like to ask the foreign minister to take the floor.

 

Date: 19.04.2006