Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 23 April 1986

Mr President, Mr Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address the Assembly. May I congratulate you, Mr President, on your election to your high office, following your long service to the Assembly. Your relationship with the President of the European Assembly will help develop links between the two bodies. May I also pay respect to the work of Karl Ahrens.

The reason why I, as head of the Austrian Government, am addressing this Session of the Parliamentary Assembly is that exactly thirty years have elapsed since my country became a full member of the Council of Europe. Immediately after the second world war, which was a European civil war and left our continent in ruins, bleeding from many wounds and with hatred between nations, the Austrians – who had become independent but were four-fold occupied – began to take notice: the grand idea of European unification was no longer being put forward, as it had once been, by a few enthusiasts, but by responsible European statesmen. This idea of overcoming hatred once and for all, of getting back to Europe’s essentials, unity in diversity, the idea of dismantling frontiers and never again allowing hatred to arise between the nations of Europe, this idea was one of the great hopes for the future – for all the states of Europe and also for Austria, which had been bled dry and laid in ruins.

You will forgive me this emotional reminiscence when I now draw a conclusion. I remember how my generation, at that time the youth of Europe, supported these efforts with an immense belief in the future, with immense drive and enthusiasm. I remember how everyone was then prepared to share their common deprivation. When it seems that people were then prepared to share their deprivation but not today’s affluence, I believe we should think back to those ideals of the early years after the war. If all those of us who are now in positions of responsibility tackle the supposedly and apparently so insurmountable technical and administrative problems with those same ideals as we had in our youth then it ought to be possible to overcome them.

The Republic of Austria, which until 1955 was occupied by four powers and did not enjoy full sovereignty, could not accept the invitation which the Council of Europe extended as early as 1951. However, the Republic of Austria did thankfully take the opportunity of sending observers to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly and its committees. Not until the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 did Austria attain full sovereignty and immediately took the opportunity of joining the Council of Europe. I should like at this point to remember a man who from the very beginning, at first as observer and then as delegate of the Austrian National Assembly, was a member of this Parliamentary Assembly and who by his support for the European cause so earned your confidence that he was elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly. I set great store by mentioning the name of Karl Czernetz who, from a personal destiny of persecution and emigration, drew the consequence, not of bitterness or hatred, but of reconciliation and co-operation.

We have now been a member of the Council of Europe for exactly thirty years. On 16 April 1956 the Austrian Foreign Minister, Leopold Figl, Chancellor during the most difficult years of our country, deposited our instrument of accession. The question so crucial to us, of whether and how our continuing neutrality could be reconciled with this participation in a common Europe has since been satisfactorily answered in practical exercise of co-operation in the Council of Europe. That is important for Austria.

In our co-operation, however, we have not forgotten the greater Europe. We have not forgotten that the continent of Europe was and is divided into an eastern and a western half, and that while we must accept this as a reality, we also have an obligation to seek to ensure that existing contradictions are not further sharpened and polarised.

We believe that within the framework of what is possible – and always looking a little beyond what it is clearly just possible to achieve at the moment – we must seek further contacts to bridge the gap between East and West and weave a network of mutual knowledge, understanding and consideration. That, too, was an objective which Dr Karasek as Secretary General of the Council of Europe, continually sought to achieve.

It is important, in all the countries of Europe, to keep alive the awareness that, despite this separation, we share a common destiny, determined not only by a common past but also by common tasks that have or will have to be faced now and in the future. These include questions of security. It is foolish and unrealistic for one part to seek its security at the expense of the other. Security must – and of this we were continually reminded by the Swedish Premier Olof Palme before his tragic death – be sought in community. We pursue these aims primarily through the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. As you know, the third Helsinki Follow-up Conference will begin in Vienna in the autumn. We believe that we have no alternative but to make every effort to ensure that this conference is a success; and whether our hopes are justified will depend not least on the commitment of the states concerned; and not only on the commitment and political resolve of the great powers. The medium and small states also have a contribution to make and are indeed profoundly concerned. Europe does not belong only to the great powers but to these other states as well.

But it is a condition of such co-operation across the dividing line that democratic Europe, to which we belong, must be consolidated, must be an expression of solidarity and not of state egoism; not of the unilateral pursuit of national claims, but of ability to co-operate, even when occasionally this means sacrificing this or that national interest; and also, and above all, of daily practised, living democracy.

Recent years, if opinion-leaders are to be believed, have been years of so-called Europe-fatigue. There has been talk of Euro-pessimism or Euro-stagnation.

There is nothing new in these slogans. They have accompanied me throughout my political career; and they have always recurred in public discussion. Europe has a long and unhappy tradition of wallowing in the notion of its inadequacy and impending doom.

Of course there are problems in Europe. Very great problems. Nobody can sweep them under the carpet. What I find most depressing is high unemployment. That nearly 19 million people in our countries should be without work is a fact which those concerned will surely never forget: nor must we forget it, nor the social and political consequences which inevitably follow from it.

Of course there are problems in the development of modern technology. This question has been much debated. Some people believe that the difficulties have been exaggerated. It remains a fact that in some modern skills Europe has fallen behind, particularly in skills which are of great importance for future developments in production. I am thinking primarily of electronics and information technology.

However, Europe-fatigue can probably be best explained with reference not to such tangible problems but to the well-known human failing of taking achievements for granted. People do not realise the great distance that has already been covered in the quest for a united Europe. No great fuss is made about the fact that trains and aeroplanes arrive on time or that every day goods are delivered punctually to the shops. These things, though essential, are taken for granted and are not the subject of sharpened political consciousness.

And yet today’s Europe, with its close co-operation, did not come about all by itself. It was brought about by political resolve and political vision. If anyone had stood up in 1949, when the Council of Europe was founded, and prophesied that in the space of one generation frontiers would have been opened for goods and passenger traffic, in particular if he had prophesied that all the so-called hereditary enmities would have faded away, that such former hereditary enemies would be amongst the most energetic promoters of European unification, he would probably have been dismissed as an unrealistic dreamer.

So we should not take our achievements for granted and be content with passive consumption. European unification is something that must be continually re-achieved and which can only remain alive if it is made to move constantly forward; and which can only be made to move forward if the political resolve, the political vision, is there.

One aim is beyond doubt the further expansion of the European economy. Here the European Community has the leading role to play. We recognise that it is of benefit to all the European states if the European Communities perform this role energetically. The aim must be to create a genuine common domestic market, open to all, for industrial goods. It should include all European states, including those of EFTA.

One-and-a-half years ago, at the Luxembourg meeting between the European Community and EFTA, forward-looking decisions were taken and we hope that they will soon be put fully into effect. It is in the interests of all European states that they should be. It is similarly in the interests of Europe as a whole that we should remain competitive in the sphere of high technology and research. We were among the first states to support the Eureka programme proposed by France. We are pleased to be able to co-operate with the European Community in COST and other European projects.

This economic dimension of Europe is naturally important, not least for the purpose of dealing with the problem of unemployment. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that behind and beyond economics, there is the political idea and the question of political identity.

Lord Keynes, probably one of the greatest of modern economists, once said that there is a general tendency to overestimate the power of material interests and to underestimate the lasting effect of gradually spreading ideas. In fact the latter alone are determining.

Europe’s strength, we are repeatedly told, lies in its diversity. But in this diversity there also lies hidden a great harmony in certain basic ideas; in our way of looking at politics and people; in social aspirations and political maxims; in our attitude to human rights, fundamental freedoms and parliamentary democracy. These ideas and values are no mere surface dressing to cover over economic and military realities. On the contrary, they are in the long term the most basic conditions of state existence and beyond that, of course, objectives which are worth pursuing for their own sake and not only by reference to something else.

Together with the striving after social justice – as expressed for example in the Social Charter – this ideological harmony is the basis of united Europe. To give this harmony shape is the function of the Council of Europe, and that is what has made it a unique institution which, more than any other, is able to explain the need for democracy and arouse enthusiasm for it.

Pessimists constantly proclaim that democracy is threatened all over the world by all kinds of powers, that it is on the defensive and in retreat. And, of course, it is always having to face new challenges; yet everywhere it is advancing, and not least in states and areas which are by no means affluent and free of conflict, but in which, as in Latin America, a very hard battle has to be fought in order to provide the population with the barest essentials.

Europe has the task of helping this worldwide development along, not only out of conviction and idealism, but also out of self-interest. If democracy were to be endangered in the world and in other continents, then it would also come under pressure in Europe; on the other hand, if it expands in other continents, then it will be strengthened in Europe too. The Council of Europe is, as I have said, the symbol and instrument of this collective democratic identity of Europe and so this function falls quite naturally to it.

And indeed the Council of Europe tries to perform this task. The most important thing is for it to bolster democracy in Europe itself, for example through the institution of the Parliamentary Assembly and through its human rights institutions. Nothing is more convincing and outwardly more effective than a practice which has become self-evident, which guarantees people dignity, freedom and political participation.

At the same time, it is important to stand up for such things all over the world. For example, the Council of Europe organised a conference on the future of parliamentary democracy. This was an attempt to set European democracy in a worldwide context. A further such conference is to take place next year.

I believe, however, that the Council of Europe can also afford the development of democracy in the world immediate practical help: European states are repeatedly invited to send electoral observers overseas in order to confirm that the elections are conducted according to certain standards. One of these observers, the Dutch Member of Parliament, Dr Tom Kerstiens, has suggested in a report to his countrymen on his experience in Nicaragua and El Salvador that election observations of this kind could be developed into a new instrument of international law. I should like to take up this suggestion here: though I believe that one need not necessarily create instruments of international law, that is to say treaties.

In my view it should suffice for the Council of Europe to form a group of parliamentarians, national civil servants and national judges with wide experience of the organisation, conduct and supervision of elections, and who are prepared to serve as internationally recognised witnesses, at the request of a non-European state. Such a group would not seek to impose its services, but be available for cases where the Council of Europe seal of approval was sought after. Suitably precise and comprehensive guidelines for the operation of such a group would naturally have to be determined in advance. Finance ought not to be a problem, since all the members of the group would continue in their present functions and would only have to be prepared to serve if called upon.

Ladies and gentlemen, looking at the future of the Council of Europe, from the point of view of the Republic of Austria and from my own personal point of view I should like to say this: there are some areas which belong primarily and will continue to belong to the Council of Europe, but which are also capable of expansion. These are areas in which there can be no logical, moral or philosophical reason whatever for permitting developments to diverge in the countries of Western Europe, in which there can be no reason whatever for dividing up Europe according to pacts or economic groupings.

The first area is that of human rights. The Council of Europe and all its member states may be proud of having created with the European Convention on Human Rights and its institutions, the Commission and the Court, a legal system which has no parallel anywhere else in the world. The fact that the European states have resolved not only to grant the ordinary citizen rights in relation to the state by declaration, but also to provide the means of enforcing those rights, is a shining example for the protection of human rights all over the world. Even if this were the Council of Europe’s only achievement, it would have more than justified its existence. The recent European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Vienna showed that the range of instruments for the protection of human rights is capable of expansion. I hope that the ideas put forward at that conference will now be dealt with promptly by the relevant Council of Europe expert committees. Precisely because the European Convention on Human Rights is not a product of the administration but a genuine creation of the Parliamentary Assembly I would ask you, members of national parliaments, to ensure together here in the Assembly that the political momentum for the improvement of human rights instruments within the Council of Europe is maintained.

The second area is that of European culture. Just as the common element in European culture defies precise definition, so too it is for us self-evident that Europe represents a cultural unity. This is not the unity of uniformity. Europe’s cultural unity consists in a multitude of cultural forms of expression, which have been able to develop in mutual cross-fertilisation and in uninterrupted direct exchange between all European states. This European culture, which is more than a collection of art treasures, more than European literature, music and theatre, but which also embraces the common concept of life together in society, which in fact is the combination of all the ways of life and rules for living which the European states and nations have evolved and acquired down the centuries, this European culture is indivisible. It is therefore the great function of the Council of Europe in its own right to further cultural cross-fertilisation between European nations, to contribute actively to the development of European culture, not in a sense of controlling culture, for culture needs freedom, but in the sense of furthering that freedom and all manifestations of culture in Europe.

The third area is the battle against terrorism. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say briefly why I believe that the Council of Europe and all its member states have a special interest in joining together to combat this terrible phenomenon. Precisely because all the states of the Council of Europe have undertaken to honour the basic values and institutions of democracy, precisely because in their states they have the most extensive protection of human rights, for these very reasons the Council of Europe member states must join together in combating terrorism and take a common stand, because it is one of the most serious threats to democracy and to human rights.

This terrible form of violence, which respects no national frontiers and displays a blind and fanatical disregard for human life and human rights, this violence is a threat not only to the life and health of our citizens, it is a threat also to the principles which we are committed to uphold. The protective measures that terrorism demands may endanger freedom of movement in Europe and perhaps some of the basic rights which we uphold. Protective measures for persons particularly at risk however constitute a direct threat to our democratic system. It is a prerequisite of our system of representative democracy that the electorate must have direct contact with those whom they elect, that they must be able to get to know their representatives not only on the television screen or behind bullet-proof glass. A threat which separates elected from electorate because of the protective measures it necessitates, is at the same time a threat to our system of representative democracy.

Austria accordingly believes that the Council of Europe would be a suitable forum not only for deciding together on protective measures against this enemy of our democratic values, against terrorism, but also for implementing them in practical co-operation. I would therefore support and welcome the holding of a ministerial conference of the relevant specialist ministers on measures to combat terrorism.

The political will to make full use of the Council of Europe will also be more easily put into effect if it is clearly recognised that the Council does not seek to compete with the Brussels institutions, but if both institutions see themselves as partners, between whom there is a full exchange of information, joint projects and close co-operation. The Committee of Ministers has adopted a resolution on the subject in response to a Swiss-Austrian initiative and talks are now in progress between the two organisations. We are confident that concrete results will be forthcoming.

Finally, the Council of Europe also needs adequate financial resources and constant support from public opinion in all the member states. Its value must not be known only to experts, it must also have an impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people. For us Austrians the Council of Europe symbolises a European identity. For us it is the expression of the power of democracy and human rights to prevail. It is the symbol of the European states’ success in learning from the mistakes of the past and of their determination to set the world an example not of strife, but of co-operation and hope. This is why we emphatically support this institution and wish to help the Council of Europe continue in the future to measure up to its task of furthering European unification. (Applause)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Federal Chancellor, thank you for your statement which will have been of great interest to all members of our Assembly.

Your analysis of the work done by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has struck a chord in us all and we are particularly grateful to you for your proposals, which we shall study in detail.

We now come to parliamentary questions to be put to the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria. As ten Representatives have already declared their intention of asking questions, I would ask them to be very brief in formulating their question which should not exceed one minute. This will allow us to have a more lively and constructive dialogue before Mr Fred Sinowatz has to leave us, at the latest by 12:15 p.m. I call Mr Butty.

Mr BUTTY (Switzerland) (translation)

I would like to ask the Federal Chancellor of Austria a question of interest not only to my country, Switzerland, and those neutral countries which are members of the Council of Europe, but to all Council of Europe member countries.

After the enlargement of the European Community to include Spain and Portugal, twelve of the twenty-one Council of Europe member countries are now also part of the European Economic Community. The other nine, including Austria and Switzerland, may feel they are running the risk of being isolated from the member countries of the Community. In view of this, Switzerland naturally attaches the greatest importance to developing co-operation with the European Economic Community, either through EFTA at bilateral level or through the Council of Europe. You did, in fact, refer to these questions and I found this of great interest.

The Council of Europe should, as it were, be a kind of bridge between member and non-member countries of the Community. My question is therefore the following: what is Austria’s attitude in this connection and, specifically, how does it view the future with the European Economic Community?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Ladies and gentlemen, to begin with let me say that Austria welcomes the enlargement of the European Community. We welcome the possibility of rendering the integration process in the EEC more dynamic. We certainly see this from the higher European view point.

On the other hand I do not wish to deny that we, like Switzerland and the other EFTA countries, are anxious to ensure that the disparity does not become too great, although I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that we should not be pessimistic about this, since social and economic development in the EFTA countries is similar to that in the countries of the EEC.

I am of course of the opinion that we must follow the ideas and thought processes of the Luxembourg Declaration, for instance in co-operation in the technical and scientific field as well as in that of environmental protection. We must continue to strive to remove all the obstacles still existing in the movement of goods.

I believe therefore, that what with the bilateral contacts which we still intend to put into effect with the EEC, and also with EFTA possibilities, very special importance must be attributed to the Council of Europe. Here is our chance to build a bridge.

Although I am convinced that Western Europe will not be split in two – such a division already exists in Europe as a whole – we must be careful to see that developments follow the same direction, that Europe truly remains a homogeneous entity, both for member countries and non-member countries of the EEC. For this we must create the greatest possible number of levels at which we can co-operate.

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

Mr Federal Chancellor, what you told us this morning was most interesting and we thank you for it. I also noted with interest your commitment to the idea of a role as missionary and arbitrator of parliamentary democracy as we understand it.

My question is more specific and more topical. You reminded us – and we share your view – that Europe has made very positive progress since the last war. Although not starry- eyed, we know that we must continue along this path. And in this connection you emphasised the will to democracy, the will to see that it develops in the world. We are all in agreement with this.

To come to news of very recent date, what do you think, Mr Federal Chancellor, of the recent declarations made in East Berlin by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mr Gorbachev, and, more particularly, what are your views on a possible visit by Mr Gorbachev to the Federal Republic of Germany, subject to the conditions known to us?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Ladies and gentlemen, the will to democracy – if I may use these words – was to some extent for us in Austria the will to see an independent, viable Austria and we therefore feel, although we are a neutral country – ours is not an ideological neutrality – that we belong to the pluralistic democratic system. We wish to make this very plain.

But in spite of this avowal which we have made repeatedly and shall continue to make, we have, for geopolitical reasons, for economic reasons and historic considerations, also done our best to develop and foster good relations with our neighbour states in the East. And we have succeeded in this to a very considerable degree. Certainly also because our status as a neutral country offers us special opportunities for this.

A short while ago – during a working visit to Moscow where an Austrian industrial exhibition was being opened – I had the opportunity to have a discussion lasting approximately two hours with Mr Gorbachev. It was most informative, because the economic reforms in the Soviet Union were discussed openly, in a manner not hitherto customary in the Soviet Union, and naturally the proposals of the Soviet Union in respect of disarmament questions which were discussed in particular at the SED party conference in East Berlin, and similarly the question of a test ban.

I would say that these proposals are interesting and should be taken seriously. However the fact that the Soviet Union now has a general secretary who is – seen also from the Western point of view – capable of interpreting this policy, should not induce us to draw the automatic conclusion that the continuity of Soviet policy is now undergoing a change. That is certainly not the case, but I believe that it is important and necessary – and this refers concretely to Mr Gorbachev’s proposal in East Berlin in regard to conventional disarmament – to note these proposals and consider them. That is also the point of view of the German Federal Chancellor.

Mr CARVALHAS (Portugal) (translation)

Austria’s position, which favours disarmament and détente, is well known. The Federal Chancellor himself has already told us what he thinks of the suspension of all nuclear tests and of the proposals for a moratorium along these lines. But my question is as follows: What is the Federal Chancellor’s position regarding the holding of a conference on the Middle East attended by all the interested parties, notably the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

By way of clarification let me merely say that the disarmament proposals and the proposals regarding a nuclear test ban mentioned by me came from Mr Gorbachev. I have conveyed them here. As Austrians we are greatly interested in a genuine disarmament process. It is not pleasant to live in a region bristling with such a catastrophic number of weapons.

As regards the Middle East question, Austria has for many years taken a firm stand and we continue to adhere to this in our policy. Part of this is the conviction that the problem will, in the long run, only be solved on a very, very broad basis, involving all our energies, at a conference organised by the United Nations in which, of course, representatives of the Palestinians should also participate. In our opinion the representative of the Palestinians is the PLO. That is why it will certainly be necessary in the long run to include them in any peace process. Of course such a conference will only make sense if it is properly prepared. Given the present situation in the Middle East, I do not believe that the necessary conditions exist.

Mr MARTINEZ (Spain) (translation)

Let me first, on behalf of the Spanish Socialists, express to the Federal Chancellor the respect, admiration and friendship we feel for him, his party, his government, his country and his people.

Recently, on the occasion of a referendum on participation in Western security measures, the Spanish people decided to declare its country a non-nuclear zone. We hope to continue to make progress in this direction and even to persuade some of our neighbours and friends to join us. We also note with satisfaction that similar initiatives are being taken in the Mediterranean, in the Balkans, in the Scandinavian countries and even in Central Europe.

Does the Federal Chancellor think that the creation of a non-nuclear zone in Europe constitutes a contribution to détente and, in the last analysis, to peace?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Let me first express my thanks for Mr Martinez’ warm words for my country and its people. I would like to say here how happy we were when Spain found its way back to democracy. We also welcome Spain’s achievements in recent years.

I think that non-nuclear zones are in principle to be welcomed. We are, however, of the opinion that all the countries of a region need to be included, further that the balance as such must not be changed and finally that disarmament has to proceed in all areas, and not merely in some.

Mr CAVALIERE (Italy) (translation)

Mr Federal Chancellor, as you know, in keeping with bilateral agreements and domestic law, Italy’s relations with the German-speaking minorities bear the hallmark of an extremely understanding and open attitude, and recognition and concessions fully safeguard their rights in every area, within certain limits, of course, which no one can contest.

Italy maintains such relations both because it respects human rights and in order to cultivate the best possible relations with Austria. Nevertheless, for some time there has been evidence of intolerance and hostility towards Italy on Austria’s part, with military-type parades and even demands for independence and the creation of a new state. What, Mr Federal Chancellor, is your view of these movements? Do you not think that they are unjustified and a threat to proper relations between Austria and Italy? Do you not think that Austria should discourage them?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I must say that as far as Austria is concerned, not only have no expressions of intolerance been recorded, on the contrary, relations between Austria and Italy have for many years never been as good as they are at present. May I remind you that Prime Minister Craxi is the first Italian Premier in a hundred years to visit Austria. I myself later had the opportunity of visiting him in Rome. We have indeed excellent relations, and these can also be seen in the fact that it has been possible to conclude a number of agreements of great importance to us. In addition, and I consider this particularly significant, there is a great deal of mutual sympathy, a very warm liking for the Italians felt by the Austrians.

As regards South Tyrol, which you mentioned, we are of the opinion that there should be a bridge between Austria and Italy, a bridge of friendly interchange, a development of relations. I believe that it is official policy in Bolzano to do just that and to tie up any loose ends in the way of negotiations. There are still some gaps in the implementing regulations and these are being discussed, which seems to me quite legitimate. It is also quite legitimate that the Italian population group in this region is worried about its position.

I believe that results will be obtained only through intensive negotiation, and on this point I am optimistic.

Mrs HUBINEK (Austria) (translation)

The Federal Chancellor said he wished to use to the full the political will of the Council of Europe. I can only applaud this.

I now wish to put a question which is of very personal concern to me. There are a number of conventions connected with environmental protection. Yesterday we again heard a report on the Berne Convention. But all this is only meaningful when implemented by the national parliaments. My specific question is: will you do your best to see that these Council of Europe recommendations are complied with even when opposed by economic interests?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

It goes without saying that we shall do our best. Of course it may happen that a project planned and prepared long before this convention came into effect at national level, cannot be carried out on the same scale. In this specific case I think I can say that no final decisions have been taken. But in principle it is obvious that we stand by the conventions and are also ready to incorporate them in our legislation.

Mr GADIENT (Switzerland) (translation)

The absence of a European transport policy has recently been repeatedly deplored in this Assembly. Large parts of Europe’s population are affected by this. Motorway tolls are only one example of the need for co-ordination. The north-south axis is part of a complex of problems which can only be dealt with and solved conclusively with the involvement and co-operation of all the countries concerned. I would therefore like to know whether the Federal Chancellor is also of the opinion that the realisation of a European transport policy is a priority and that the Council of Europe, to which the transit countries Austria and Switzerland also belong, is predestined to take the leading role in this matter?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

As regards a European transport policy, I can only emphasise what you have said, as Austria is the country most affected by north-south transit traffic. Since 1970 the load carried by our north-south route has risen from approximately 3 million tonnes to 19 million tonnes; 99% of this traffic comes from EEC countries. Hence our great concern for a different kind of planning in this field.

We intend – and this is the objective we have set ourselves – to shift a large part of the goods traffic from road to rail in order to reduce the tremendous pressure on the people of the Tyrol.

But, as you rightly say, this requires general, extensive European transport planning and it requires in particular the creation, together with our neighbouring states, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, of infrastructures to allow more use to be made of rail than hitherto. The question of a European transport policy is for us an absolute priority.

Mr OEHLER (France) (translation)

I listened attentively to the proposal of the Federal Chancellor of Austria to set up, within the Council of Europe, a group of parliamentarians, civil servants and other competent individuals to supervise elections at the request – I state clearly at the request – of non-European states. This is a new field. How would the Federal Chancellor expect such a group to operate and what means would be available to it?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I think this is not nearly as complicated as it would appear at first sight. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe would have to decide on this. It would also be helpful if the Committee of Ministers could consider this proposal. If necessary, a joint committee could consider the question and discuss the necessary preconditions. My view is, and you said this yourself, that this can only be considered when people want it, when they ask for it. It also seems to me important to establish guidelines. And finally I assume that the financial means required will not be so huge, since it is a question of women and men who will continue their work at national level and make themselves available only when this specific case occurs.

Mr MARTINO (Italy) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, you referred, at the beginning of your speech, to the problem of security; you then referred to Olof Palme and, in turn, to Mr Karasek and the sight of Hungary beyond the East- West demarcation line. Perhaps you wanted to suggest to us an increasingly large and more comprehensive Europe. Yet, since many of the police investigations of terrorism have shown that terrorists often come from the East European countries, even if they have only passed through them, how do you think we can reach agreements making it possible at least to obtain information for the prevention of international terrorism? Has your own country attempted to enter into specific agreements of this kind with neighbouring countries? If so, what have the results been?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I think that in recent times we have been able to establish that the countries in Eastern Europe have also reconsidered their position in respect of international terrorism and are quite ready to develop joint methods of proceeding in this area. This is already happening at purely bilateral level. On the question of combating terrorism, we are already in touch with neighbouring countries in the East in respect of experience and information. These contacts have proved to be a good thing. Our aim must be to get past the demarcation line in Europe and work jointly and co-operate in combating terrorism. I am optimistic about this.

Mr BIANCO (Italy) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, I wish not to ask a question but to express appreciation of your positive and proper answer to the question from Mr Cavalière. It is very important to us that you saw talks on South Tyrol and Alto Adige as a link – a bridge – between our two countries, and we welcome this attitude. We are also pleased that you acknowledged the existence of strong ties between Austria and Italy, which have become even closer and more friendly of late. Thank you, Mr Chancellor.

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Thank you for saying that, Mr Bianco.

Mr BÜCHNER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

After mentioning the great progress made in Europe, the Federal Chancellor also spoke about the great problems existing at present, and among the problems of greatest concern to him he put the high unemployment in Europe.

We are at present making a second attempt in the Assembly and the competent committees to recommend to the governments a package of measures which could help the matter somewhat. Many of our colleagues feel that what is necessary is an appreciable reduction in working hours, in whatever form, so as to give young people in particular a chance to find an occupation after training. We believe that for young people one of the bitterest disappointments and worst experiences is when, at the end of their training, society shows them that they are not really needed.

What is the opinion of the Federal Chancellor regarding the necessary reduction of working hours?

Mr Sinowatz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

As regards the political danger arising from unemployment I share your view. Austria herself forfeited democracy in the thirties not least because there were major economic catastrophies and an army of unemployed who, because they were disappointed in the viability of the country, lost their faith in the ability of democracy to function. That is why for us in Austria the question of the fullest possible employment is not merely a question of economic policy but also a question of democracy, one which we must not underestimate in all the measures we are taking. In our opinion, this also means that we should not leave these measures merely to the private sector, but should at the same time create a state framework in order to guarantee high employment.

In addition, as part of this question, there arises the problem of shorter working hours. In Austria we are of the opinion that in this respect we should proceed pragmatically. We are already in the process of doing so. We want to introduce this by stages in the various sectors of industry, while naturally bearing in mind the ability of our economy to compete. In the metal industry we have already taken the first step. It is the view of our trade unions, which largely coincides with that of the government, that by proceeding pragmatically we shall be able to achieve a thirty-five-hour week by the beginning of the 1990s.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We have come to the end of our questions.

Mr Federal Chancellor, let me thank you on behalf of the Assembly. It was for us of the greatest interest to hear your views on the work of the Council of Europe.