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).