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Debates
Tuesday, 15 January 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Review of the Austrian Council Presidency (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Maria João Rodrigues, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, Chancellor, the Austrian Presidency started with an important motto, which was ‘A Europe that protects’, and indeed we need a Europe that protects. But we can see that the Austrian Presidency was delivering more of another kind of Europe: a Europe of fears, retrenchment and a certain kind of selfishness. We regret this, because we need a strong Europe with strong ambition – so strong and so ambitious that we can provide the necessary solidarity.

This started with the refugee drama. We could have delivered quick, swift operations of rescuing and providing asylum. But we were confronted with several dramatic scenes in the Mediterranean, and we deplored this. Europe needs to define a fully-fledged migration policy to ensure the orderly, organised management of migration – because we do need migration. Instead, we were blocking some of the key pieces of this migration policy.

Then we had the episode of the Global Compact for Migration, which we very much deplore. This was endorsed by most of the countries in the world, and we saw in Marrakesh some of the Member States of the European Union not endorsing it, led by the Austrian Government – something we again deplore and something we just cannot understand.

But this lack of ambition and solidarity also has connected with our citizens. Let us take the European Social Pillar – the biggest initiative we have. The Austrian Presidency could have delivered more quickly on the full package of directives and regulations which are necessary to implement the social pillar. We could not understand how it was even possible for the Austrian Presidency to postpone a meeting of the Council of Ministers. We are in a hurry, Chancellor, to implement this pillar in order to turn this into reality.

And then we have the important negotiations on the multiannual budget. Yes, this is necessary to meet the new challenges in Europe and also to keep a strong commitment to cohesion. We were really disappointed that, in the last European Council, it was decided that the final agreement should take place only in autumn. This is too late. A lot of regions will suffer from this. We have the conditions to get the basic agreement before this, and we don’t understand why the Austrian Presidency was not able to put forward a more ambitious schedule to finalise this negotiation.

Then we had another opportunity on eurozone reform – something on which we have been waiting for years and years. The solutions are on the table. We might be close to an agreement enabling us to complete the banking union and to create the budget for the eurozone, something all monetary zones in the world have – they have a budget. But again, the Austrian Presidency was hesitating over this. This is a crucial piece to reset cohesion inside the eurozone and to overcome the divergences we have in this important area of European construction.

Then tax fairness. Yes, we do need a new digital tax and we need to deliver this in a much quicker way. I must tell you, Chancellor, that from our viewpoint, the Austrian Presidency missed some key opportunities to deliver a stronger Europe, which we need in this particular occasion, because we are confronted with a new movement of ideas, calling for retrenchment, selfishness, a far right movement. In the face of this, we basically have a choice: either we make an alliance with them and make concessions to them, or we present a real fully-fledged alternative – a strong Europe, ambitious and able to provide solidarity.

So this is the way to go for us Social Democrats, and we really think that we need to move to a new phase where this new kind of leadership emerges in Europe. So these are our remarks, Chancellor.

 
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