The Chancellor made a short visit from Vienna to Brussels on Thursday with a whole group of journalists. Although he is expected again for the EU autumn summit next week, he “quite consciously” planned the quick inaugural visit. In all currently important problem areas such as pandemic, climate protection and external border protection, Europe is “the decisive frame of reference”.
The Chancellor wants to emphasize his pro-European line in Brussels, but probably also smooth things over: Austria’s domestic political turbulence in recent weeks was also an issue in the talks with Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel. The visit is a signal, said Schallenberg on Thursday in Brussels, “that Austria is a strong, constructive and committed partner in Europe and that we can be counted on”. He also emphasized this to von der Leyen. The chats were not an issue.
He will explain the situation, but the fact that he is suddenly speaking in the role of head of government hardly attracts any attention in Brussels. In a Union of 27 states, personnel damage in the national governments is “day-to-day business”.
Migration policy remains unchanged
The Austrian EU and foreign policy is unlikely to change in the future, as Schallenberg was largely responsible for the previous line. This also applies to migration policy. Austria is already showing “excessive” solidarity, said Schallenberg on Thursday.
Schallenberg’s first business trip as Chancellor
On Thursday, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) met EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels. With the visit he would like to underline his pro-European stance.
There are already opportunities to “finance infrastructure measures at the external borders in order to protect them”. The admission of refugees is therefore still not part of the Federal Government’s plans.
That should be a topic of conversation in the EU Commission, which advocates the further distribution of refugees in Europe. There are also debates in the EU about the rule of law in some member states such as Hungary and Poland. EU proceedings are ongoing against both states, and the Commission is also considering making the CoV aid dependent on progress in the rule of law.
These countries would also have to accept and follow the EU rules, said Schallenberg. “The values of the EU are non-negotiable.” The new Chancellor supported the EU Commission’s action against Poland, where the Constitutional Court had placed national law over European law. “Without the primacy of European law, this structure will disintegrate, which is a highly dangerous development,” said Schallenberg. But a lot depends on the tone, you have to be careful not to give the impression of EU countries first and second class.
Austria remains “frugal”
Negotiations on the Union’s Stability and Growth Pact will also be on the agenda by next winter at the latest. Hardly any member currently fulfills the Maastricht criteria. Schallenberg, like Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP), wants to continue pursuing a strict austerity policy. This means that Austria continues to join the bloc of “frugal” states that categorically reject a relaxation of the austerity rules in the Union. Signaling to individual countries that the EU will save them anyway, even if no savings are made, is the wrong way to go, said Schallenberg.
The visit was a classic inaugural visit as the new Federal Chancellor. Schallenberg has long been known in Brussels. As Foreign Minister, he was a regular guest at meetings with his EU counterparts in the EU institutions. At the beginning of his career he headed the legal department of the Austrian EU representation, later also the EU coordination section of the Federal Chancellery. His visit to Brussels is now “a homecoming in a different function”.
Chancellor Schallenberg: “System stays short”
In an interview with ZIB moderator Armin Wolf, Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) spoke about his future tasks, the current investigations into former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), the “Kurz system” and the CoV policy.
In Brussels, Schallenberg reiterated his previous statements on the investigation against ex-Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP): “I believe that nothing will get stuck in these criminal charges.” This opinion also exists outside the ÖVP. That is his personal opinion, but he has great confidence in the rule of law and in the work of the judiciary. From him there is “no questioning of the separation of powers”.
Twitter glitch and emancipation
He has had enough “emancipated” from Kurz. “The Austrian Federal Constitution only knows the function of Federal Chancellor, and I will fill that.” The faux pas on Twitter, in which Kurz’s account was mistakenly written about the trip to Belgium instead of Schallenberg’s, was also commented on. It was just a mistake that everyone in the team could see over the past few days. “It has nothing to do with my understanding of ministry.”