This year’s Europe Day is a special one for both Austria and Romania.
The year 1918 marked the end of the bloodiest war history had known until then. Austria-Hungary and the Kingdom of Romania were opponents in this war, thousands of lives were lost on both sides.
The way the outcome of the war was experienced differed: as a consequence of World War 1, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist and Austria became a democratic republic on 12th November 1918. This year, the Republic of Austria will therefore become 100 years old. At the same time, Romania celebrates this year the centenary of the unification of Transylvania, Banat, Crișana, Maramureș, Bessarabia and Bukovina with the Old Kingdom of Romania in one democratic national state.
100 years later, 2018 is a year in which both Austria and Romania embrace their future in a spirit of partnership and shared destiny as we prepare for our respective Presidencies of the Council of the European Union. On 1 July 2018, Austria will assume the Presidency of the Council for the third time after 1998 and 2006. It will hand over the Presidency at the end of the year to Romania – with Romania taking over this European responsibility and leadership function for the first time as of 1 January 2019.
What a difference to 1918! Then, history placed our countries on opposite sides; now, Austria and Romania are partners in the European Union with closer political, economic and cultural ties than ever.
Undoubtedly, the European Union is, at present, at a turning point. Austria is in favour of tackling the challenges that lie before us in a more efficient way. The upcoming departure of the United Kingdom from the Union should serve as momentum to bring about certain adjustments to the current approach and procedures. In our view, certain adaptations are called for to the way – and the rapidity in which – the Union reacts. Furthermore, we need to concentrate on priorities, i.e. those areas in which acting jointly as a Union provides added value and added impetus.
This is why the debate on the future of Europe is of utmost importance: in our view, the EU should concentrate on key challenges, bring subsidiarity to the fore and regain the trust of its citizens. The key policies and challenges are migration and protection of our external borders, internal and external security, economic and social development, deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union, the future scope and priorities of the European Union’s finances and the functioning of the Union.
From an Austrian point of view, the Union should cooperate more closely on the big issues in line with the principle of subsidiarity. At the same time, the European Union should avoid overregulation and restrain itself on issues where Member States or regions can act more efficiently on their respective levels. Consequently, Austria is committed to “doing less more efficiently”, as proposed in the European Commission White Paper on the Future of Europe. In domains with only limited EU added value the EU-27 should stop or reduce its activities.
Austria is not in favour of a multi-speed Europe. We have instruments for a differentiated integration at hand, if needed, but our focus is rather on the combination of joint priority actions and subsidiarity. We should avoid creating gaps between or camps among Member States and should instead jointly shape our European future. Austria intends to engage in the debate on the future of the European Union during its Presidency, Romania will bring it to a first culmination point at the European Council in Sibiu exactly one year from now.