Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

Fresh EU presidency attacks European Court of Justice

Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel has kicked off his country's presidency of the EU with criticism on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for systematically expanding EU powers through its rulings.

Mr Schussel made his remarks in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday (31 December), just one day before Vienna started its six-month period at the helm of the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

The Austrian leader called for the debate on the future of the EU to focus not only on the fate of the EU constitution, shelved after French and Dutch voters rejected the text, but also on the role of the EU’s top court.

Mr Schussel said "the ECJ…has in the last couple of years systematically expanded European competencies, even in areas, where there is decidedly no [European] community law."

"Suddenly, judgements emerge on the role of women in the German federal army, or on access of foreign students to Austrian universities – that is clearly national law", he added.

The chancellor referred to a judgement by the EU court of last July, when judges ruled that Austria could not restrict access of foreign students to its universities, many of whom are Germans.

Constitution roadmap

Mr Schussel also reiterated that his government will during its stint at the helm of the EU not press the ratification of the EU constitution, which Austria itself supports.

In June 2005, European leaders agreed upon a "reflection period" on the constitution, in response to negative outcomes of referendums on the charter in France and the Netherlands.

The Austrian leader stated in the interview with Sueddeutsche "I am in favour of a discussion phase to start with. It is important that we form ourselves a clear picture on the concerns of citizens".

But Austrian politicians had earlier indicated that Vienna will try and lay the foundation for a new consensus between member states supporting further ratification of the constitution, and those that have said farewell to the treaty.

Mr Schussel said Austria wants to achieve a "roadmap" at the EU leaders' summit in June, to come to a solution "best at the end of 2007."

Concern about EU centralisation

Vienna’s strategy to resuscitate the constitutional debate will first see a discussion on identity, kicked off by a major conference called "The Sound of Europe" at the end of this month.

"The first thing would be to accentuate more clearly the identity question and to send the message that there is no European uniform mass, but more identities, that constitute the European sound", Mr Schussel said.

As a further sign of the Austrian presidency’s concern about a centralised EU, Mr Schussel indicated deregulation and subsidiarity (the principle that political decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level) should be "taken seriously."

Around May, the discussion about identity, deregulation and subsidiarity should start to focus on concrete issues, such as the role of the ECJ, the chancellor announced.

Finally, Mr Schussel expressed support for the idea of his German counterpart Angela Merkel, who has proposed to attach a declaration on the "social dimension of Europe" to the failed EU constitution.

The non-binding declaration should call upon the EU institutions to better consider the social implications of EU internal market legislation.

Chirac initiative

Meanwhile, French president Jacques Chirac has announced he will launch a new political initiative to break the constitutional deadlock.

Mr Chirac made the announcement in a televised speech on 31 December, without revealing details of his plans.

"With all our partners we have reached a budget agreement, but Europe needs institutions that are more democratic, more stable, more effective", he stated.

"We cannot wait. This is why I will quickly take up the initiative to start building a political Europe, a social Europe, a Europe of projects."

Analysis

Will Austria's presidency give EU a populist push?

As Sebastian Kurz's government takes over the helm of EU-policy making for the next six months, Austrian MEPs from opposing sides weigh in on the EU's youngest prime minister's possible influence on the continent's future.

Interview

EU populists not actually that 'popular', says global activist

"The populists are not popular. It's 14 percent of the vote in Germany and smaller percentages in other countries," says global campaigner Ricken Patel, considering to use his organisation, Avaaz, to raise turnout in next year's European parliament elections.

Analysis

EU leaders take on migration to fight political crisis

The main objective of Thursday's summit in Brussels will be to agree on new measures to reduce illegal migration, in order to help Angela Merkel at home and fight populists and extremists across the bloc.

EU delays Macedonia and Albania talks

Accession talks to start in 2019, not this year as hoped, after France, Denmark and Netherlands force delay despite breakthrough on Macedonia name dispute.

Analysis

Will Austria's presidency give EU a populist push?

As Sebastian Kurz's government takes over the helm of EU-policy making for the next six months, Austrian MEPs from opposing sides weigh in on the EU's youngest prime minister's possible influence on the continent's future.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us