Guidelines of the Austrian Government on the subjects likely to be dealt with at the 1996 IGC (submitted in June 1995)

I. Introduction

The guidelines have been drawn up by the Federal Chancellery and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in cooperation with other ministries, the Länder and the social partners. The positions adopted by the Conference of 'Landeshauptmänner' (heads of government of the Länder) of 4 May 1995 have been taken into consideration.

The main challenges to be met in the field of institutional reform are as follows:

With regard to models for differentiated integration, the guidelines single out four principles to be observed:

II. Functioning of the Community pillar

The guidelines devote considerable attention to the question of existing policies and how they can be strengthened in material and institutional terms and with regard to decision making.

In general, the Government considers that the Community should give priority to environment policy and the fight against unemployment.

With regard to granting new powers to the Union, the Government believes that:

The Government is opposed to any discussion of the material aspects of EMU at the 1996 IGC.

The Government has serious reservations about discussing CAP reform at the 1996 IGC.

On the question of Community social policy, the Government stresses the fact that the United Kingdom has secured unwarranted competitive advantages. The Community's social policy should be brought within the Community framework and harmonized by including the protocol and agreement on social policy in the first pillar. In addition, the Government urges that the procedure provided for in Article 189b (simplified) should be extended to cover all aspects of Community social and employment policy.
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With regard to environment policy, the Government calls for:

III. Institutional questions

European Parliament

The Austrian Government supports the extension of the European Parliament's legislative and supervisory powers. With this in view, discussions are needed on the simplification of legislative procedures and commitology.

The Austrian Government seems to have reservations about the European Parliament's request for a right of initiative vis-à-vis the Commission. However, it is in favour of revising the investiture procedure for the Commission and stresses the value of the proposal made by Mr Santer during the last investiture procedure in January 1995.

The question of the number of Members of Parliament is not a matter of priority for the Austrian Government. According to the guidelines, the functioning of the European Parliament is dependent upon its working methods.

On the question of cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament, the Government calls for interparliamentary procedures of the COSAC kind to be consolidated. It is opposed to any attempt to establish a second chamber of national parliaments.


The Austrian Government wants the role of smaller Member States to be maintained. This is one of the constituent elements of the European Union.

With regard to institutional provisions concerning the role of the Council, the Austrian Government is opposed to any reduction in the members needed for a blocking minority.

It calls for a partial revision (article by article) with regard to the extension of qualified majority voting in the Council.

The Government is in favour of retaining the current system of rotating presidencies.


The Government is willing to consider a reduction in the number of Commissioners. However, each Member State must have the right to nominate one member of the Commission.

With regard to the extension of the Commission's powers, the Government calls for it to be given powers to combat fraud and in the areas covered by the third pillar.


According to the guidelines, the subsidiarity principle should be strictly applied. It is seen as an instrument for improving the distribution of tasks between European, national and regional level.

Hierarchy of acts

The Austrian Government is 'interested' in establishing a hierarchy of acts, but account would have to be taken of the need for balance between the bodies of the Union.

Basic rights

The Austrian Government believes that the basic rights of Union citizens need to be guaranteed. The 1996 IGC should discuss how this should be done.
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Austria subscribes to the objectives of the CFSP as set out in Article J.1 of the Treaty on European Union. It has a strong interest in seeing the Union become a factor for stability in Europe.

In accordance with the dictates of the integration progress, Austria supports the principle that the Union's foreign policy should be gradually brought within the Community framework.

Institutional questions

The major shortcomings can be seen as the lack of preparation for decision making and implementing measures.


Financial questions

European Parliament

Common defence policy

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V. Cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs

The government largely agrees with the assessment on the (mal)functioning of the policy on justice and home affairs made by the Commission, Council and European Parliament.

It proposes that a work programme should be established and a genuine institutional impetus given to the third pillar.

In order to overcome the structural problems of intergovernmental cooperation, the Austrian Government is in favour of including Community instruments under the third pillar.

European Parliament

The Austrian Government's position on the role of the European Parliament and the national parliament is the same as for the CFSP.

Duplication of powers

The Austrian Government would like to see a clarification of the powers governing visas, health, measures to combat drugs and international crime, and nuclear security.

Clarification and simplification of work structures

The Austrian Government proposes that at least one level of activity should be abolished under the third pillar. For that purpose, it proposes:

Measures to combat racism and xenophobia

The Austrian Government proposes:

Austria's positions of principle on the Intergovernmental Conference: Austrian Government document of 26 March 1996

This text was submitted by the Austrian Government on the eve of the Turin European Council, and consists of nineteen pages divided into four parts, concerning: 1) the challenges facing the Union; 2) the need to bring the Union closer to the public; 3) efficiency and democracy; 4) the CFSP.

Concerning the challenges facing the EU, the Austrian Government considers it necessary to reinforce the Union's capacities for action in a number of areas. European integration in general is seen as crucial to social and economic development in Europe, and EMU is felt to offer further potential benefits. Austria believes that the peace and stability which are the fruit of the integration process must be extended to other European countries. In this connection, Austria enumerates a number of issues that the IGC must face. Firstly, as regards democracy and bringing Europe closer to the public, Austria considers that Member States must be suitably represented in the legislative process, and that the 'extra' representation of small and medium-sized Member States should be retained. The existing interinstitutional balance should therefore be preserved; the legitimacy and transparency of Union policies should be improved through simplification of the legislative process, closer cooperation between the Council and Parliament and the consolidation of links with the national parliaments. The regional dimension of the integration process should be strengthened as a contribution to transparency; the principle of subsidiarity should be consistently applied; and the protection of fundamental rights should be improved. All these measures would serve to bridge the existing gap between the Union's citizens and its institutions.
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On the subject of employment, Austria considers that action against unemployment should be a major priority for the Union, alongside environmental protection, which, as a matter of major concern to the public in the Union, should be one of the key themes of the IGC. The Conference should promote the ecological dimension of the Community policies.

On internal security, on the grounds that full freedom of movement for Union citizens will only be possible once their security has been guaranteed at European level, Austria considers that all matters relating to immigration, asylum and action against crime, terrorism and drug trafficking should be dealt with in the basis of supranational coordination of legal and police authorities. On the CFSP, Austria believes that the IGC should: encourage greater coherence between the various aspects of external policy; set up a joint planning and analysis capacity; improve the effectiveness of decision-making and implementation in the CFSP field; and develop the policy's operability in the areas of conflict prevention, crisis management, peace-keeping measures, disaster aid and humanitarian action. On the subject of enlargement and the workings of the Union, the Austrian Government proposes: clarifying and simplifying the legislative procedures; extending majority voting; improving working methods and organizational procedures; and retaining the Commission's role as the motor of the system. Enlargement and institutional reform are seen as part of one and the same process, to be undertaken in tandem on a phased basis. On the subject of flexibility and coherence, Austria considers that the dual challenge of widening and deepening the Union will necessitate differentiated integration; this should, however, remain the exception rather than the rule, should be transitional in nature, and should under no circumstances mean that Member States which, for reasons of economic development, are not in a position to accede to a higher level of integration (as in the case of EMU) end up shut out of the integration process as such.

After this first section setting out the challenges facing the Union, the Austrian text goes on in its second part to consider means of bringing the Union closer to the public. On the question of human rights, Austria favours: accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights; incorporation of the content of the European Social Charter in the Treaty; strengthening and further development of the principle of gender equality in the Treaty; and reference in the revised Treaty to action against racism and xenophobia. On the subject of the existing inequalities between men and women, Austria suggests that there should be an explicit Treaty provision conferring on Member States the right to undertake actions in favour of women. On European citizenship, Austria believes that a fresh impetus should be given to this concept, which should be more fully defined: it should be made clear that European citizenship complements national citizenship but does not replace it.

On CJHA, Austria considers that a number of policies at present falling under the third pillar should be communitarized. These include: visa and asylum policy, external frontier controls, immigration policy, policy concerning third country nationals resident in the Union action against drug trafficking and international fraud, customs cooperation and action to combat fraud against the Community budget. However, it believes that criminal law matters should remainunder the third pillar. The role of the Community institutions, instruments and procedures will require strengthening to deal with the subjects still under the third pillar, with a view to improving the latter's continuity and dynamism. There should be greater use of majority voting on third-pillar matters, especially as regards action against organized crime. On the operational level, there should be a significant reduction in the number of working levels, and a clarification of the powers corresponding to the different pillars. The Commission should play a greater role in third-pillar matters, in the interests of improved continuity, dynamism and coherence, and its right of initiative should be extended to the third pillar. The Treaty should include a provision guaranteeing the uniform interpretation of third-pillar legislation by the Court of Justice. Concerning Parliament's role in the third pillar, Austria favours strengthening its right to be informed and consulted, and also believes the national parliaments have an important role to play in third-pillar matters. Transparency should be increased in the area of the third pillar: all non-confidential documents should be published, and the European Parliament should be kept regularly informed on Council meetings. The funding of the third pillar should be more clearly defined, and should be subject to financial control by the Court of Auditors. Finally, Austria feels that the continued existence of different national laws on internal security, with respect to the third pillar, the Schengen agreement and the Dublin Convention, is inefficient and confusing, and believes that the IGC should unify all these systems; in particular, Austria supports incorporation of the Schengen agreement into the Treaty.

On employment and social affairs, Austria believes the Treaty should include a high level of employment as one of the Union's fundamental objectives. With a view to coordinating and monitoring employment policy in the Member States, Austria supports introducing a control mechanism. Provisions should be instituted to improve the coordination of consultation on employment policy between the Employment and Social Security Council and ECOFIN. The substance of the Social Charter could be incorporated in Title VII of the Treaty. In addition, all future proposals should be examined by the Commission for their impact on social policy and employment.
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On the environment, Austria believes that the concept of environmental protection should be incorporated in the Treaty in relation to the CAP, the trans-European networks and the common transport policy. In certain cases, environmental protection should be incorporated in such a way as to permit economic sanctions in certain cases. Member States should still have the possibility of establishing or maintaining stricter environmental rules at national level. On the institutional aspect, codecision of Parliament should be extended to environmental matters, and there should be greater use of majority voting in this field; it should, however,be possible for certain sensitive questions, such as water resources or land use, to be decided on by unanimity. The Commission should examine all future proposals from the viewpoint of their likely impact on the environment, and could, in this connection, submit a report annually to the Council. Finally, Austria reiterates its hope that nuclear energy will eventually be abandoned, and states its intention to press for animal welfare to be taken into account in Union policies.

On transparency, Austria would like to see a greater involvement of public opinion in the preparation of EU legislation, through green papers, white papers and Commission proposals. It favours publication of the texts of interinstitutional agreements, and supports the idea of clearer and morecomprehensible legislation. The public should have easier access to Union documents, and the structure of the Treaties should be simplified.

On subsidiarity, Austria wishes to see this principle clarified, and supports the participation of the national parliaments in the monitoring of its application; it could be added to the Treaty in the form of a protocol. The Committee of the Regions and individual regions should have the right to bring legal action in cases of breach of the principle of subsidiarity or the powers of the regions.

The third part of the text concerns efficiency and democracy. The first aspect discussed is the institutions, followed by the subjects of legal acts, financial matters and Union policies. On the subject of the European Parliament, Austria would maintain the existing proportional arrangements concerning its membership, and would not change the voting system; it would simplify and speed up the complex legislative procedures now in force. There should be only three procedures: codecision, assent and consultation. Codecision should be extended to fresh areas, and Parliament should play a greater role in the process of selecting the President of the Commission.

On the subject of the national parliaments, Austria believes the Treaty should include an explicit reference to the need to involve them in the integration process, while leaving the precise form in which this is done to the Member States. At all events, the national parliaments should receive clear, full and timely documentation on important Commission legislative proposals. The relationship between the European Parliament and the national parliaments should be complementary, not competitive, and existing cooperation structures such as COSAC should be further developed.

With respect to the European Council and the Council of Ministers, Austria supports greater use of QMV, which should apply to such areas as taxation, some spheres of social policy and the harmonization of provisions directly affecting the internal market. Unanimity should, however, still apply to sensitive areas of derived legislation and decisions on own resources. On the weighting arrangements, Austria believes that the current relative 'over-representation' of the small and medium-sized Member States in the decision-making process should remain. It would, however, reform the Council's working methods, while keeping the system of rotating presidencies. The Presidency should be supported by a reinforced Council Secretariat, and there should be a more efficient division of labour between the members of the troika.

On the Commission, Austria wishes to see it retain its three main functions, namely: determination of the common interest, monopoly powers of legislative initiative and monitoring of the implementation of Community law. It believes it is crucial for the Commission's legitimacy that each Member State should continue to have a Commissioner. On the Court of Justice, Austria would preserve its central role as the body responsible for interpreting Community law, and would strengthen its powers in third-pillar matters. On the Court of Auditors, Austria stresses its vital role in the fight against fraud, and believes it should gave the power to bring actions before the Court of Justice; the Treaty should include a provision making it compulsory for the national authorities to cooperate with the Court of Auditors. Austria, as a federal state, supports greater powers for the Committee of the Regions, and will put to the IGC various proposals submitted in this connection by the Austrian Länder, the Federationof Regions and the Federation of Cities. Finally, on the Economic and Social Committee, Austria would promote this body to fully-fledged institutional status, with its members being appointed for a five-year term, in line with Commissioners and MEPs.

Austria does not think it realistic to introduce a list of the Union's and Member States' competences at the IGC, and would, rather, retain the existing Article 235 of the EC Treaty. It does, however, support the reform and simplification of commitology. On action against fraud, Austria favours intensified and more effective measures based on suitable monitoring mechanisms. It does not believe that the IGC is the moment to discuss own resources and the budgetary procedures, taking the view that these matters should be debated when the post-1999 financial perspectives are negotiated. On other Union policies, Austria would intensify application of Article 113 of the EC Treaty, on the lines suggested by the Reflection Group. It would also institute a high level of consumer protection: this dimension should be extended to other Union policies, and Article 129 of the EC Treaty should be modified accordingly. Austria considers that all proposals tending to extend the scope of Community policies should be examined from the viewpoint of the subsidiarity principle.
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The last section of the Austrian text concerns the CFSP. The discussion begins with the question of planning and analysis at Union level: Austria would support the creation of a planning and analysis unit consisting of experts from the Member States, the Council Secretariat and the Commission. Institutionally, this unit would be an adjunct to the Council Secretariat, but would work closely with the Commission with a view to utilizing the latter's experience and resources. It should not have a formal right of initiative, as this would complicate the CFSP's institutional structure. On the subject of second-pillar decision-making, Austria favours a gradual transition to majority voting, with the proviso that certain sensitive areas of national sovereignty, such as military security, would remain subject to unanimity. On the precise arrangements for majority voting, Austria suggests examining the following models: firstly, qualified majority voting for specific areas of the CFSP (to be decided on at the IGC); secondly, super-qualified majority voting (consensus minus one/two) for non-military areas of the CFSP, so as to stop decisions being blocked by a Member State; thirdly, majority voting as the general rule for all aspects of the implementation of joint actions. In all of these cases, Austria believes there should be the possibility of 'constructive abstention' or 'opting-out'. austria would not support a 'flexible' model (as suggested by some Member States) enabling a group of Member States to undertake an action on behalf of the Union without that action being endorsed by the Union as such. It would, however, endorse measures to ensure greater coherence between the CFSP and the Union's external economic relations.

Concerning the implementation of the CFSP, Austria would reinforce the role of the Council Secretariat, which could be given specific external policy responsibilities, such as dialogue with third countries. The members of the troika should also be systematically involved in CFSP execution; the same applies to the Commission in areas connected to the first (Community) pillar. The Union should have its own legal personality. Finally, on the matter of security and defence, Austria expresses its willingness to play a full part in the European security structures. With a view to facilitating convergence between the EU and the WEU, Austria would support the latter becoming subjectto the former's instructions and guidelines in the area of the 'Petersberg missions'.

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Europaen Parliament, last revised: 18 September 1996
URL : http://../igc/en/pos-at.htm