Austrian Chancellor (in British terms Prime Minister) Werner Faymann today (15th January 2013) addressed the European Parliament – a rare event for a country’s leader who is not currently holding the Presidency of the EU. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti have previously given speeches to the parliament.
Reports highlight the following key points made by the Chancellor:
- “Only with social cohesion we can continue our peaceful development”
- He called for everyone to fight youth unemployment and stressed the positive role of Austria’s guaranteed training system. Austria has the lowest unemployment in the EU and second lowest Youth unemployment.
- The crisis in Europe has been mastered “better than in the 1930’s”. Moreover, without the EU a co-ordinated response on this scale would not have been possible. “If we strengthen Europe, we strengthen ourselves, if we weaken Europe, we weaken ourselves”.
- He saw the rescue of the ESM as only the beginning of a European debt management speaking in favour of the redemption fund and shared management of debt. (Debt fund, a powerful bank insolvency law and a deposit guarantee for customers were all highlighted).
- The financial transaction tax was an important concern in Austria. “It is a symbol that the financial markets contribute to that also has a control function:.. That will strengthen the real economy”.
- He argued for reliable and sustainable energy policy which meant Renewables not Nuclear (Fukushima showing the latter as not sustainable).
He concluded his speech by saying: “If the grandchildren of the Austrian judge with grandchildren from southern Europe one day about our policy, I want them to say:” In a difficult time was solidarity and love stronger than selfishness and greed. ”
This is the second time this week I’ve read Werner Faymann make a positive case for Europe – in a one on one debate between the Austrian Chancellor (and leader of the Social Democrat SPÖ) and the leader of the Euro-sceptic (Far-Right) FPÖ, Faymann in my view was the clear winner in demolition the rhetoric of his opponent.
Werner Faymann and the SPÖ appear to believe that Europe is an issue that they can and need to address head on with voters. It’s also an issue on which they clearly believe that a strong pro-European position will be a vote winner in the General Election, due in September this year. (The Party are currently leading in the opinion polls).
Pro-European Parties (to varying degrees): ÖVP (conservatives); SPÖ (Social Democrats); Greens (Left of Centre); NEOS (liberal/centrist); LIF (liberal); Austrian Pirate Party. Combined support in current polls – 66%
Europe-sceptic Parties (to varying degrees): FPÖ (Far-Right); BZO (Right Conservative); Team Stronach (Right of Centre). Combined support in current polls – 34%
One of Austria’s newest parties NEOS would probably score amongst the most pro-European of the parties likely to be in the Austrian Parliament after this year’s General Election – http://neos.eu/ . However, the Austrian Pirates might dispute that title as they are currently discussing a Euro-federalist position – https://lqfb.piratenpartei.at/initiative/show/1768.html