Austria can be ‘sparring partner for sustainable parliamentarism’

Newly elected president of the Austrian Parliament Wolfgang Sobotka (OeVP) delivers a statement during the government declaration of the new coalition government between Austrian Peoples Party and the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party. [EPA-EFE/FLORIAN WIESER]

The new president of the Austrian parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, has announced that he wants to work more closely with the institutions in Strasbourg and put more focus on historical awareness. EURACTIV Germany reports from Vienna.

Three-quarters of the relevant laws are already decided by the European Parliament – what is not really perceived by the public. Not least because the media coverage focuses more on national than European parliamentary events.

EU parliamentarians and the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe may prepare for a consolidation of contacts with the Austrian parliament in Vienna. Sobotka, the new Austrian parliament chairman, has set himself the goal of intensifying cooperation between Vienna, Brussels and Strasbourg, just like he emphasised in his talks with EURACTIV.

From his experience as the Austrian interior minister, he is convinced that asylum policy is an issue that could be dealt with jointly by European and national parliaments and thus be more likely to be resolved.

Austria opts for dialogue with the Visegrád four

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is an irritation to many EU politicians. However, it is becoming clear that the new Austrian government relies on dialogue and wants to fulfil a “bridging function”. EURACTIV Germany reports from Vienna.

In the interest of a better exchange of information and understanding and the optimal preparation of new legislative decisions, Sobotka wants to seek out and expand the contact with the Commission and Parliament in advance.

In particular, he is concerned with cultivating and maintaining the level of dialogue between the respective area spokespersons and the committee chairmen of the two parliaments.

Not only because they have special weight, but because just at the time of preparation of political decisions the possibility for a discussion process exists, because additional proposals can be introduced and thus ultimately a consensual will-forming process can take.

Moreover, he pays special attention to the upcoming Austrian EU presidency in the second half of the year. In doing so, Sobotka is less concerned with the day-to-day situation than with fundamental decisions that are crucial for the future development of Europe.

These concern not only a sustainable security policy, a concerted digitisation initiative, a key challenge in a globalised world, but also an issue closely related to the migration wave of the recent years. Specifically: Is Islam also a European religion and what would a European tradition of Islam look like?

A topic that is relevant beyond the EU and should therefore also be discussed in the Council of Europe.

Orban’s Vienna visit highlights Austria-Hungary comradeship

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said yesterday (30 January) that he aimed to ease east-west strains within the European Union, as his new right-wing government welcomed Hungary’s incendiary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Vienna.

A special project that Sobotka wants to pursue, in which he sees a special commitment of the Austrian parliament, is the so-called “Salzburg Forum”, a Central European initiative founded in 2000, supported by Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria.

So far its primary focus has been mainly on the cooperation of security services, the fight against illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Now, this forum will also deal with the establishment of sustainable parliamentarianism, with the Austrian parliament taking the “role of a sparring partner.”

Especially in the light of recent scandals connected to right-wing ideology, which created a distorted image in the Austrian public’s historical awareness, the Austrian parliament’s president wants to mark a number of anniversaries this year: 100 years since the end of the First World War, 80 years since the start of Nazi occupation and 70 years since the establishment of the fundamental rights and freedoms.

Because, as he emphasised “he who does not want to face history will be hunted down by history.”