Christian Kern’s seven points for a reorganisation of the European Union

en: Christian Kerns sieben Punkte für eine Neuordnung der EU

Event data

Datum
3. 7. 2017
Host
Österreichische Gesellschaft für Europapolitik
Location
Technische Universität, Wien
Event-type
Podiumsdiskussion
Participants
Christian Kern, Bundeskanzler von Österreich, zum Zeitpunkt der Veröffentlichung
Franz Vranitzky, Ehemaliger Bundeskanzler von Österreich

On 3 July 2017, Chancellor Christian Kern presented his views on the necessary reorganisation of Europe during a discussion event of the Austrian Society for European Politics in the domed hall of the Vienna University oTechnology. The event revolved around the question: “How do you consider Europe?”

After an opening speech on the contributions of the recently deceased former German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and the former foreign minister of the ÖVP, Alois Mock, regarding a common Europe, Christian Kern talked about the proposals on seven important subjects of Europe which are, according to him, necessary to further expand and guarantee pro-European solidarity.

1. It is pro-European to complete the Economic and Monetary Union

In the Euro zone, a uniform monetary and currency policy was created with the European Central Bank. Currently this is the only instrument towards an economic management at Union level. However, the only goal of the financial policy is to ensure price stability.

Sanctions for violations of budgetary disciplines are imposed, but when unemployment increases greatly, when social systems break down or there is no education for young people, there are no consequences. Therefore, the European Union (EU) does not only need mandatory targets regarding the public debt and inflation, but also guidelines for unemployment, investments and social minimum standards.

2. It is pro-European to fight for fair taxation

It is not acceptable that large companies do not pay their taxes and move their profits to tax havens. In order to fight against unfair tax competition and to maintain the European fundamental idea of equal conditions, the common tax base for corporate taxes has to be introduced at last. But consideration should also be given to the idea of harmonising tax rates as well. Only in this way can a damaging race to the bottom be met. 

3. It is pro-European to consistently fight wage and social dumping

Nowadays people in Europe are still being taken advantage of with poverty-level wages. If, for example, the domestic market and the freedom of services lead to social and wage dumping, European citizens experience this as a threat. The currently discussed changes of the Posted Workers Directive finally have to be implemented; they are a first step. But the cooperation of national authorities regarding the cross-border pursuance of violations also has to improve. This would also be a classical function for the EU in the social interest of citizens.

4. It is pro-European to support convergence

The wage gap between individual member states remains on a high level and leads to an intra-European migration movement which was not foreseeable to such an extent when the EU granted the free movement of workers. A similar prosperity level has to be achieved, otherwise the distortions will remain, provoking further migration of workers within the EU. This is also a disadvantage for the countries of origin.

The expenses of the EU budget should focus more on growth-inducing investments. An increase in investments would lead to more sustainable growth and employment as well as increasing convergence and cohesion. We need a shift away from the budgetary priorities towards future investments, such as education, research, infrastructure. For this, new instruments are necessary. In addition Jean-Claude Juncker‘s plan regarding his European fund for strategic investments, the EU should also establish a European fund for public investments, in which it is jointly decided where investments are necessary.

5. It is pro-European to demand a fair trade policy

Europe is interested in trade and open markets which are as unrestricted as possible – according to Kern, he, as the Austrian Chancellor, can only support this. Austria has a very open national economy and Austria profits from free trade just as much as from European integration.

Europe has to have a say regarding the set of rules of the global economy; our high social and environmental standards have to be globalized, otherwise others would impose their rules upon us. We have to insist that our high environmental and social standards are not undermined. Here, the EU has to actively protect European interests: that is what the EU is here for.

We, as Europeans, cannot be naive regarding our trade policy. If we do not defend ourselves against the unfair competition directed at us, we would, in a couple of years, no longer have a raw materials industry in Europe. We are threatened with missing the boat in strategic key industries, such as robotics and microelectronics.

Christian Kern shares the discomfort of many Austrians as regards the unilateral special rights for investors. In a discussion on CETA and TTIP, the government has already carved out the problematic points of this new comprehensive agreement. As long as there is no satisfying solution, such trade agreements, like CETA, will also not be ratified. Thereby the trade policy parts of CETA are temporarily applicable, but not the investment courts. As such the trade agreement and all its rules are governed by the Austrian jurisdiction and Austrian laws.

6. It is pro-European to rigorously defend the community of values

It cannot be the case that European solidarity is demanded as a matter of course when money from the EU is wanted. However, if the compliance of European fundamental principles, such as the fair distribution of refugees or the battle against wage and social dumping, is at stake, one suddenly does not even know how to spell European solidarity.

Kern’s concrete suggestion was to tie payments of the EU to the compliance with constitutional fundamental principles. If appeals do not have an effect, perhaps the money of the EU, as a last resort, will lead to a change in thinking.

7. It is pro-European to also divide the burden of migration

In the short term, Europe needs solid protection of its external borders, control of the refugee routes and a division of the burdens. Leaving this problem to the Italians, Greeks, Germans, Swedes and Austrians will not work.

In the long term, the Union has to change the living conditions in the countries of origin and in the transit countries, so that people find new prospects there. Therefore, we need some kind of Marshall-Plan for Africa. The Commission has already taken the first steps. Now the member states, including Austria, are being called upon. This costs both time and money, but it is the only realistic chance to deal with this.

Christian Kern works to ensure that Austria will contribute for those who expect more than a domestic market from Europe. One will work together with those who want to build a strong, fair and supportive Europe. Kern ended his talk at this point and a discussion with former chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, regarding this issue began.

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