Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: We want to play a part in ensuring that the EU once again appears harmonious, united and strong
Speech at the European Forum Alpbach on the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union
“Austria took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union at an internationally challenging time. Tensions with Russia remain unresolved, and we are experiencing the increasing unpredictability of the USA as well as tensions within the Union. Probably the most important goal for our presidency, however, is to ensure that the European Union will continue to be a strong and reliable partner after Brexit,”
said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the European Forum Alpbach in his speech on “The Future of the EU: Priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union”.
In the face of difficult international challenges, he continued, the EU sometimes appears too slow, too divided and too weak to be competitive, to successfully stand up to the superpowers and to be “the kind of global player that we would like to be.”
The Federal Chancellor reminded the audience that despite all the challenges, we must not forget that the European Union is “the greatest success project of the 20th century”, guaranteeing peace, freedom and at least modest prosperity for around 500 million people. “We are making the biggest contributions in the area of development cooperation in order to improve living conditions outside Europe,” said Kurz, who described the European way of life as one of the continent’s positive achievements.
“We should therefore be grateful to the generation that built the EU and also take responsibility for ensuring that the European Union continues to develop in a positive direction,” continued the Federal Chancellor. To this end, he said, the foundations need to be strengthened and the course corrected where necessary. “The European Union is not the sum of the funding distributed or its overall economic performance: what defines us are fundamental values such as the rule of law, democracy and freedom. In the European Union, we experience a degree of freedom, stability and security that is inconceivable in other regions of the world.”
To safeguard this, Kurz continued, stronger cooperation is needed in the field of security and defence policy in order to be able to safeguard peace and stability in the long term. “This also includes proper protection of external borders: only when we work together to secure our external borders can we ensure that a Europe without internal borders can continue to be a matter of course in future,” added the Federal Chancellor.
In addition to strong foundations, however, a change of course must also take place when undesirable developments occur, said Kurz. In particular, the developments of recent years have led to divisions being created that prevent the European Union from acting in unity. “If we do not succeed in bridging these divides, we will not be able to deploy our full power. During our presidency, we want to play a part in taking unifying action. I hope that in the medium term, we will succeed in acting jointly and in unity.”
According to the Federal Chancellor, courageous decisions will therefore be needed for the future. “The European Union is currently incomplete. For as long as the Western Balkan countries are not part of the EU, Europe will not be complete,” he said. A very positive dynamic can be witnessed in the solution to the naming dispute between Athens and Skopje and in the marked rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo, he continued. “If we utilise the current momentum in the Western Balkans, the European perspective can become a European reality. We will support all solutions to the best of our ability.”
To continue to safeguard the competitiveness of the European Union in future, Kurz pointed out that the right steps need to be taken now – as is the case with Austria’s investment in education, for example. The same is needed in the EU, he added. “Only if we invest in innovation, education, research and development can we remain competitive and thereby maintain prosperity. If we make a joint effort, we will succeed in enabling the European Union even in challenging times to take a small step, every day, in the right direction. If we can achieve this, we can together ensure that the European Union is not just the strong international player of the 20th century, but will continue to be so in the 21st century, too,” concluded the Federal Chancellor.
Pictures taken at this event can be downloaded free of charge from the photo service of the Federal Press Service at http://fotoservice.bundeskanzleramt.at.
The full text of the Federal Chancellor's speech can be found on the news page.