Conclusions of European Council seen mainly positive

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?

 

Wolf­gang Schüs­sel, for­mer Chan­cel­lor and cur­rent for­eign affairs spokesman of the Aus­tri­an Peo­ples Par­ty (ÖVP), stat­ed that the solu­tion found at the Euro­pean Coun­cil in Decem­ber 2008 was a good pro­pos­al for Ire­land and that he expect­ed the sched­ule for the Lis­bon Treaty to stay on time. The Lis­bon Treaty is in his words “the cen­tral core for the EU for the next years”.11“Schüs­sel: EU-Gipfel unter­bre­it­et Irland gutes Ange­bot”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.ots.at/presseaussendung.php?schluessel=OTS_20081212_OTS0255 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

The deci­sion to main­tain the “one state – one Com­mis­sion­er” prin­ci­ple was gen­er­al­ly per­ceived pos­i­tive­ly, only Johannes Voggen­hu­ber, MEP of the Greens, expressed his con­cern that this deci­sion would lead back­wards into a re-nation­al­i­sa­tion of the Com­mis­sion.22Johannes Voggen­hu­ber: “EU-Gipfel: Mut­los, unentschlossen und zer­strit­ten in die Krise”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.gruene.at/europaeische_union/artikel/lesen/38501/ (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

European Elections: Payoff or new chance?

The Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in June 2009 are seen by the Aus­tri­an Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ) as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a pay­off with the par­ties which denied Aus­tri­ans a pop­u­lar vote regard­ing the Lis­bon Treaty. The par­ty keeps empha­sis­ing that it is not against the EU as such, but that it wants the EU to change, as they see cur­rent devel­op­ments as a huge mis­take.33“Stra­che: Regierung soll EU-Märchen­stunde been­den”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.fpoe.at/index.php?id=477&backPID=616&pS=1233446399&tt_news=26964 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

In Novem­ber, Euro­pean Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans of the Aus­tri­an Peo­ples Par­ty (ÖVP) and of the Social Democ­rats (SPÖ) pub­licly announced that they expect­ed more active pro-Euro­pean pol­i­tics from their par­ties back in Aus­tria. There is a need for change, and a clear com­mit­ment to Europe in order to be able to work prop­er­ly and cred­i­ble regard­ing the upcom­ing elec­tions in June 2009 for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.44“EU-Abge­ord­nete von SPÖ und ÖVP fordern aktive Pro-Europa­poli­tik”, Der Stan­dard, 18 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1226397081337 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

No candidate found for the new Commission

Regard­ing the for­ma­tion of a new Com­mis­sion in autumn 2009, the Aus­tri­an Gov­ern­ment still has to decide who it will present as a can­di­date. How­ev­er, some rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Social Democ­rats have already sig­nalled that this time, the par­ty might raise claim to nom­i­nate the Aus­tri­an Com­mis­sion­er. Nev­er­the­less, com­men­ta­tors spec­u­late that this is a part of the polit­i­cal bar­gain and that in the end, Chan­cel­lor Wern­er Fay­mann (SPÖ) will leave this post to the Aus­tri­an Peo­ples Par­ty. The rea­son behind this might be that Fay­mann does not want to put his EU-crit­i­cal track in doubt by send­ing a can­di­date from his par­ty.55“Nichts ist klar, Frau Kom­mis­sar”, Der Stan­dard, 8. Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1231151240812 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

Besides, Aus­tri­ans have gen­er­al­ly react­ed pos­i­tive­ly to the con­ces­sions made in con­se­quence of the Irish ‘No’. After all, this has enabled Aus­tria to keep a post in the Com­mis­sion, as already men­tioned above.

Besides from the news that there would be an appoint­ment, no state­ment could be found on the appoint­ment of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Policy.

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities

 

Many issues to tackle – but also more engagement needed

The three top pri­or­i­ties for a re-def­i­n­i­tion or re-vital­i­sa­tion of the transat­lantic EU-US rela­tion­ship is the estab­lish­ment of peace and sta­bil­i­ty in the Afghan region, fight­ing cli­mate change and the clos­ing-down of the Guan­tanamo prison camp. Barack Oba­ma is expect­ed to demand more engage­ment in Afghanistan from the Euro­peans, not only in terms of finan­cial sup­port but also through the increase of troops deployed in the country.

In a com­men­tary in the news­pa­per “Der Stan­dard”, Aus­tri­an EU-Com­mis­sion­er Beni­ta Fer­rero-Wald­ner stat­ed that it was cru­cial to revi­talise the transat­lantic rela­tion­ship. As most press­ing top­ics for both par­ties she men­tioned the eco­nom­i­cal cri­sis, cli­mate change and ener­gy scarci­ty. On a more inter­na­tion­al lev­el she high­light­ed the Mid­dle East peace process, Afghanistan and the con­ven­tion on cli­mate pro­tec­tion as the three top pri­or­i­ties. But she was also very clear in say­ing that Europe would not get a bet­ter part­ner­ship for free, and that a lot of engage­ment from Euro­pean side was need­ed.66“’Yes we can!’ Soll auch für Europa gel­ten”, Der Stan­dard, 19 Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1231152304020 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response

 

The EU’s response to the financial crisis generally seen as mostly positive

The EU’s over­all per­for­mance in reac­tion to the finan­cial cri­sis is per­ceived high­ly pos­i­tive, the pres­i­dent of the “Aus­tri­an Cham­bers of Com­merce”, (“Wirtschaft­skam­mer Öster­re­ich”, WKÖ) Christoph Leitl out­lined the mea­sures tak­en by Nico­las Sarkozy in France to fight the cri­sis and eval­u­at­ed them as a way to fol­low.77“Leitl: ‘Sarkozy hat gezeigt, wie es geht.’”, Die Presse, 30 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://diepresse.com/home/politik/innenpolitik/440835/print.do (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009). Anoth­er pos­i­tive state­ment was made by the Mem­ber of Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Andreas Mölz­er from the Aus­tri­an Free­dom Par­ty (Frei­heitliche Partei Öster­re­ichs, FPÖ), he stat­ed that the Euro had proved itself dur­ing the finan­cial cri­sis.88The FPÖ rep­re­sents the right wing and nation­al inter­ests and is high­ly EU scep­ti­cal. He also hoped for the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank to con­tin­ue its work in the present way and for the Euro to behave as a shield against inter­na­tion­al finan­cial gam­blers.99“Mölz­er: Euro hat sich in derzeit­iger Finanzkrise bewährt”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.fpoe.at/index.php?id=477&backPID=390&tt_news=25637 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

For­mer Chan­cel­lor Wolf­gang Schüs­sel, stat­ed in a press release that Europe’s reac­tion to the finan­cial and bank cri­sis was right and very ambi­tious. He also empha­sised that Europe had proved of being capa­ble of act­ing prop­er­ly in such crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.1010“Schüs­sel: Europa hat gegen Finanzkrise her­vor­ra­gend reagiert – Öster­re­ich ist gegen Rezes­sion gut gerüstet”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.ots.at/presseaussendung.php?schluessel=OTS_20081210_OTS0103&ch=politik (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).

    Footnotes

  • 1“Schüs­sel: EU-Gipfel unter­bre­it­et Irland gutes Ange­bot”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.ots.at/presseaussendung.php?schluessel=OTS_20081212_OTS0255 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 2Johannes Voggen­hu­ber: “EU-Gipfel: Mut­los, unentschlossen und zer­strit­ten in die Krise”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.gruene.at/europaeische_union/artikel/lesen/38501/ (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 3“Stra­che: Regierung soll EU-Märchen­stunde been­den”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.fpoe.at/index.php?id=477&backPID=616&pS=1233446399&tt_news=26964 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 4“EU-Abge­ord­nete von SPÖ und ÖVP fordern aktive Pro-Europa­poli­tik”, Der Stan­dard, 18 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1226397081337 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 5“Nichts ist klar, Frau Kom­mis­sar”, Der Stan­dard, 8. Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1231151240812 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 6“’Yes we can!’ Soll auch für Europa gel­ten”, Der Stan­dard, 19 Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://derstandard.at/druck/?id=1231152304020 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 7“Leitl: ‘Sarkozy hat gezeigt, wie es geht.’”, Die Presse, 30 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://diepresse.com/home/politik/innenpolitik/440835/print.do (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 8The FPÖ rep­re­sents the right wing and nation­al inter­ests and is high­ly EU sceptical.
  • 9“Mölz­er: Euro hat sich in derzeit­iger Finanzkrise bewährt”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.fpoe.at/index.php?id=477&backPID=390&tt_news=25637 (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
  • 10“Schüs­sel: Europa hat gegen Finanzkrise her­vor­ra­gend reagiert – Öster­re­ich ist gegen Rezes­sion gut gerüstet”, press release, avail­able at: http://www.ots.at/presseaussendung.php?schluessel=OTS_20081210_OTS0103&ch=politik (last access: 17 Feb­ru­ary 2009).