Austria’s leaders reject Juncker’s vision for eurozone expansion

Austrian Chancellor and head of the Social Democratic Party (SPOe) Christian Kern arrive for a speech during the kick off of the SPOe's campaign for the Austrian federal elections. Graz, 7 September. [Christian Bruna/EPA]

Austria’s Social Democrat Chancellor Christian Kern and conservative Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz today (14 September) rejected European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s vision to expand eastward the euro and a border control free zone.

In his annual State of the European Union speech, Juncker sketched out a vision of a post-2019 EU where some 30 countries would be using the euro, with an EU finance minister running key budgets to help states in trouble.

On the eurozone, Juncker goes wide but not deep

In his speech on the State of the Union, Jean-Claude Juncker insisted on the extension of the eurozone, but not on its deepening. He fears the two-speed Europe defended by Emmanuel Macron. EURACTIV France reports.

French and German European officials have made generally positive comments about the speech, but several said he would face stiff opposition for countering  “multi-speed Europe” by encouraging all states to join the euro.

Paris and Berlin don’t take Juncker’s ‘Union of equality’ seriously

European officials made positive comments on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’ s State of the Union speech on Wednesday (13 September), but several said he would face stiff opposition for countering “multi-speed Europe” by encouraging all states to join the euro.

Kern, who is running against Kurz in parliamentary elections on 15 October, told ORF radio there was no point in expanding the euro and Schengen zone as long as tax fraud, the practice of contracting out work to lower-cost eastern European firms and breaches of limits for government debt had not been vanquished.

“It simply makes no sense to enlarge the eurozone before this has not been dealt with, because (otherwise) problems would get bigger,” Kern said, pointing to Greece’s struggle for years on the verge of bankruptcy as a prime example of such problems.

“If you like this is an expansion of the problems at the end of the day and not a plus in European cooperation. I think this concept is not thought through.”

Kurz also pointed to Greece as a bad example of including countries which do not fulfil the conditions for public finances the EU has set for itself.

“The euro and the Schengen zone is open for everybody, but only for those that fulfill the criteria… We must avoid another situation like the one in Greece,” Kurz said.