Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Madam President, honourable members of the Assembly and the Bureau, may I first express my gratitude for having the opportunity to speak here before the Parliamentary Assembly? To come back to something Madam President mentioned in her kind words of introduction, the role of the Council of Europe, its tasks and challenges, in these times which are anything but easy, are particularly important. Precisely against the background of the history of the 20th century, Austria, as the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, feels particularly committed to playing an active part in building peace in Europe. The function of the Council of Europe is of paramount importance.

As Chancellor of Austria, I am very proud that the highest functions within the Council of Europe have been held with great commitment by fellow Austrians such as Peter Schieder, who was President of the Parliamentary Assembly. So there is an Austrian tradition, I feel, and this chairmanship is part of it.

In many respects, 2014 will be a year in Europe and throughout the world of historical reflection. The year 1914 marked the beginning of an age of wars and of mass murder, an age of injustice and dictatorship. Seventy-five years ago, Hitler’s war of aggression against Poland signalled the beginning of the Second World War. This war, and the Holocaust, were the greatest human catastrophe the world has ever witnessed. One cannot commend enough the generation of that world war, because after 1945 it held out its hand and made it its paramount goal to achieve peace on this continent. Anyone who accepts the lessons of the 20th century cannot allow the economic crisis to lead, as it did in the 1930s, to mass unemployment – to a complete lack of prospects, to poverty or to incitement of national hatred. We cannot allow anything of this kind to be repeated.

“We must not allow the wrong people to pay the highest price of the crisis”,

Europe has invested a lot of time and money during the current crisis, but in the European Union we have also invested a lot with those who are not members of the European Union, because we see Europe as a common family. We have devoted a lot of resources to taking the first step towards doing what is perhaps most pressing – rescuing banks and stabilising monetary flows, and thus, through our energy, time and money, supporting economies. It is right that since 2008, step by step, we have taken these steps in our united Europe, but I am equally convinced that we have not yet done enough. Banks believe that they have returned to stability, but we still see very high levels of unemployment – above all, youth unemployment – around our continent. That means that the crisis is not over, and therefore the political challenges cannot be considered to have been won.

We must not allow ourselves to become accustomed to these levels of unemployment. In this time of rapid change, we cannot grow complacent and become used to seeing these things time and again. Such complacency must not take hold when we know how many people live close to the poverty threshold and how few of them manage to find new jobs. We know how high youth unemployment is, and that sounds an alarm call to us all about how many young people do not have an opportunity to make their own contribution to being part of our community. They are prepared to join the labour market but they do not find an opportunity to do so in the globalised economy. The crisis since 2008 has shown us that today there are fewer and fewer solutions at national level to our global problems. Those who want to lead us astray will say that the time has come to concentrate on our national and domestic problems and that national injustices should be seen as justification to turn our backs on the international community.

Let us not let up when it comes to the repair costs after the crisis. Together with many other countries – many of their representatives are here – we have had the idea of a financial transaction tax, but that will not solve unemployment in Europe. It would be too easy just to come forward with one simple solution. Someone who does that is, to my eyes, suspect in principle. This is part of an overall puzzle. We need to ensure that those who caused some of the crisis should at least make a contribution to remedying it. We need to think about the huge resources that will be involved if a form of co-funding is required. Speculation based on wagers on the collapse of whole economies must be constrained. We must have some kind of guarantee of employment for young people and do our level best to generate more employment, because without the necessary sustainable and high-quality growth we will be living at the expense of the next generation. We need that growth to create the necessary foundations for new employment and prosperity in Europe.

We must not allow the wrong people – that is, young people – to pay the highest price for the crisis. It is our sincere wish that a whole new generation will commit itself with conviction to our principles – democratic development and the rule of law – but to that end society must be strong and these young people must find their place in the community. To give you just one of the worrying figures from our united Europe, since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008 the number of unemployed young people in the European Union has risen by more than 2 million from 3.5 million to 5.7 million. It is therefore particularly important in Europe to continue to combat youth unemployment. We are pleased that perhaps the situation in our country is slightly better, but we are also concerned about every single unemployed individual, so we need to take up this challenge and overcome it – to take up the gauntlet to create employment and find common solutions.

Solidarity does not end at the borders of nation States, so we must not remain indifferent if half of all young people in the countries of southern Europe have no job, although not everyone sees it that way. What people call the rationale of the market in the globalised economy pays no attention to whether the prosperity of some is achieved at the cost of the misery of others. We must halt the advance of chronically insecure employment contracts. It is clear that no European country can manage this on its own, so it is self-evident that we need to think and to act beyond national borders. Incitement to hatred, to which some have now devoted themselves, is a very irresponsible way of proceeding, and we need to combat it. It is important to remember our historical duty to counter with determination the enemies of democracy. We must take up these important challenges. Prosperity is inconceivable without peace and social justice, without freedom, and without the rule of law – that is, without our common values. Closer co-operation still between the Council of Europe and the European Union is possible, and it can make a great contribution if we think about our specific strengths, so we need to concentrate on those. For decades, the Council of Europe was at the vanguard of human rights and democratic policies, and I am sure that it will continue in this way, because that has huge importance.

Discrimination against homosexuals in some member countries of the Council of Europe has gained significant attention. Such legal and de facto discriminations are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. It is important for me to emphasise that from my point of view a boycott of an international sporting event is not a suitable means of supporting the justified concerns of human rights activists. That would result in damage to international sport. But the discrimination that used to exist in the world of sport has been overcome. The measures taken in recent years need to be reconsidered and perhaps we need to continue our efforts to undertake international reorganisation, to bolster our work against discrimination.

Austria will continue to play its part constructively to support the work of the Council of Europe. What unites all of us here is our common commitment to human rights, social justice, democracy, freedom and peace. I wish us all the best for our common work. Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you very much, Chancellor. Our members now have the opportunity to put questions to you. Questions must be limited to 30 seconds. The first speaker is Mr Iwiński, from Poland, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland)

Chancellor, you are one of the political fathers who supported the idea of introducing a financial transaction tax, which you just mentioned. Eleven European Union member States, including Germany and France – but unfortunately not my country, Poland – decided to share that point of view. Italy has already implemented the solution. How do you see the future of the FTT and when will Austria follow Italy in implementing it?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

The financial transaction tax could be very valuable in supporting measures that help us achieve better education and create more employment for young people, because educational institutions cost money. Therefore, this financial transaction tax seems a very good example of where we in Europe can take action and ensure that the financial sector plays its part. As you know, a number of countries both inside and outside the European Union do not share this conviction because in their opinion it could lead to competitive disadvantages.

In questions of democracy, the rule of law and freedom, when it comes to our environmental policy – when it comes to our values – we in Europe cannot simply take our cue from competition and what might hinder competition. It is more than just a question of that. It is important that we stand up for our values. A financial transaction tax could indeed make the right contribution and it should be introduced in as many European countries as possible in order to support this funding. Many legal concerns have been expressed, most of which the European Commission has dispelled. If we want this approach – if it is important to us because we think it makes a contribution to overcoming the crisis – it should be introduced at least in the 11 countries that are interested, to serve as a model in this common Europe.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

The next question is from Mr Agramunt from Spain, on behalf of the European People’s Party.

Mr AGRAMUNT (Spain) (interpretation)

Chancellor, asylum is one of the issues that concerns the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and indeed the Council of Europe as a whole. When it comes to asylum, I know that Austria has already done a lot to help. Do you envisage a new policy in this area? Bearing in mind the war in Syria, what are the criteria being applied by your country to help refugees coming from Syria?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

Austria is not the only country that is seeing an increase in the numbers concerned, but Austria is one of the countries that receive a lot of applications, which it has to administer. If people are entitled to asylum, their asylum rights will be safeguarded. As a general answer to your question, we need to look towards the European Union because the European Union has a responsibility as well. We need to ensure that there is a distribution of quotas when it comes to asylum seekers. It is important that we remember the plight of individual countries – I am not referring to Germany or Austria per se but countries such as Malta or other countries in the southern parts of Europe – and ensure that we have a common responsibility in Europe. It is true that some have done less in the past and we need to ask those stakeholders to show solidarity and move forward on that basis.

You know as well as I do that the right to asylum is intricately linked to the issue of human rights and, therefore, to the whole issue of humanity and the kind of contribution that we can make. The best policy would be to ensure that people are not forced to flee, to become refugees – I think we agree on that. Having said that, unfortunately we cannot promise a world such as that for tomorrow – a perfect, fair world where everything would be absolutely all right, so that people did not have to flee their home countries. We cannot promise that so therefore we must look at our asylum procedures and the way in which we handle this issue, and come up with common European solutions.

Turning to the specific question of asylum procedures for Syrian refugees, at the end of August 2013 Austria said that we would be prepared to accept 500 Syrian refugees, in addition to previous numbers, because of the crisis in the country. We would also be helping out the neighbouring countries of Syria and giving them permanent protection. We are talking about 250 people. With family reunion, 170 have already arrived in Austria, and we intend to complete that procedure within the next few weeks: 250 for humanitarian assistance programmes, together with the UNHCR. All this is being implemented. Since the beginning of this month especially, we have been pulling out all the stops to ensure that the process can be completed over the next few months. I am convinced that this is a common task for us, which we should all take seriously.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

The next question is from Mr Pushkov from the Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

We are extremely frustrated to see that Ukraine seems to be becoming a battlefield between Russia and the European Union. There have been accusations that undue pressure is being exerted on Ukraine by Russia, despite the fact that we know that the European Union has been very active in Kiev and we have seen many representatives of the European Union there. Do you believe that Russia and the European Union should fight one another on the Ukrainian battlefield or should a different and more constructive approach be found?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

Austria and the European Union call on both sides in Ukraine to stop the violence; we are convinced that solutions can come only through dialogue. At the same time, we – the international community in Europe – should clearly signal that we support those who uphold human rights and want the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine. I do not think that the situation is mutually exclusive. The European Union could intervene in a positive rather than a negative way and show Ukrainians that the values in our countries support those in other countries who want to implement them. I welcome all the efforts of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General, who, in playing a go-between role, has made an important contribution. Support for dialogue, even for those who want a rapprochement with the European Union, is the right way forward and fully justified. Many in Ukraine are looking closely at the situation and trusting that Europe, with its humanitarian values, will support them.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you. The next question comes from Mr Xuclà, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain) (interpretation)

Greetings from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Chancellor. I have read the interesting address that you gave in the Burgenland on 20 January. You said that we had to take measures against policies of hatred and anti-Semitism. Today we remember the Holocaust and say plainly, “Never again.” What are your proposals to combat xenophobia, anti-Semitism and policies of hatred?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

Our common fight for human rights, common approach to freedom of expression and common efforts to combat discrimination are the strongest arguments against all forms of incitement to hatred. Certain economic preconditions exist and I should emphasise that people who incite such hatred can best be dissuaded by being attracted away with decent employment and living conditions. We need certain social standards and employment, which helps remove what would otherwise give rise to such attitudes. It is important that hatred should not determine political discourse or the outcome of an election; the opposite should be the case. We should ensure a basic consensus about our values in an election, and that can come only if we link social and other standards. That linkage is so important because in many European countries young people are disappointed by society. They become easy prey to the false images of “others”, as they see no place for themselves in society.

In the past, we talked about the reconciliation of opposites, but now there are economic pressures, which are important, as are social standards in this common approach. The answer lies in trying to reconcile the two in the fight against racism and those who try to achieve political change out of hatred.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you. The next question comes from Mr Kox, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr KOX (Netherlands)

Bundeskanzler, you said that saving banks was not enough and that first and foremost we in Europe should save citizens from unemployment, poverty, exclusion and hopelessness. What do you think of the idea that all member States of the Council of Europe should accede to the European Social Charter of this great Organisation? Should the European Union, after acceding to the European Convention on Human Rights, start to investigate whether it could also accede to the European Social Charter?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

We have always taken the European Social Charter very seriously. Social standards have always been at the forefront of our international and domestic policies. We are calling and hoping for that accession. I have talked to the President about the possibility of moving closer together on these matters, involving both the European Union and the Council of Europe. That is one of our primary concerns. We have to face social issues together for the future.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you. I propose that we now start clustering questions three at a time. If you agree, Federal Chancellor, you can then respond to the questions together.

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) (interpretation)

I liked your speech very much, Chancellor. You were calling on us to build hope and the future together, but there can be neither without young people, whom we have to get on board. Young people, however, are disillusioned with politics and parliamentarianism. We heard your Minister talk about greater transparency and greater direct democracy. Do you have any suggestions about how we can move forward and how the most skilled people can take decisions according to their abilities, rather than having things handed down from above?

Mr GOZI (Italy) (interpretation)

Chancellor, I heard you say that there should be a more shared approach to the right of asylum in Europe, which is important. Since Lampedusa, it is as if the rest of Europe does not exist. It is not enough to share the load of asylum; we need a general shared approach on immigration, both regular and irregular. What should Europe be doing to develop a common approach to immigration in the Mediterranean and to see Lampedusa as a part of Europe, rather than a far-flung part of Italy?

Ms GERASHCHENKO (Ukraine) (interpretation)

Chancellor, you will know that earlier the Assembly discussed Ukraine. There are Ukrainian officials, including the former Prime Minister, who do a lot of business in your country with the proceeds of corruption. What do you think about personal sanctions being taken against those who have been involved in corruption and are also guilty of violations of human rights?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

As I have said, I am convinced that Ukraine, the European Union and the European Council can all make a considerable contribution to finding a solution without any violence. The country should decide for itself which direction it wishes to go in, to whom it wishes to grow closer, and what types of relations it wants to have with the European Union. These decisions should be taken exclusively by the country concerned. Everyone should be entitled to autonomy when taking these decisions. That is part of the values we advocate. It is part of the rule of law and the way a country deals with those who think differently. We must be more active on that.

As to whether we should impose sanctions, that too is a matter for common policy. It is also a matter for the rule of law. It would be strange if we were to advocate sanctions against one country at this stage. I therefore prefer the way we have progressed so far, which is through negotiations and discussions. We can only find solutions by talking together, while always advocating respect for the rule of law and the independence of countries.

The question of asylum was raised. I thank Mr Gozi for asking about it. I could mention Malta, Lampedusa or other examples of places to which people have fled because they were persecuted for political reasons or lived in apprehension of not having enough to survive on. Many of them come to places such as those on the sea, perhaps. The European Union and our continent as a community must understand that we need to protect them. We must protect not only our external borders but individuals, their human rights and our common values.

I mentioned the issue of quotas. One cannot expect the countries of immediate reception to bear this burden alone. That applies to Lampedusa, Malta and other places. We need to continue to discuss these things in the Council. I know your Prime Minister is rightly committed to this and sees it as a European task. You Italian politicians are right. I can tell you that Austria is also concerned that asylum matters must not be left to individual countries to deal with as best they can. We need to strive for common directives and common solidarity. There is an urgent need for that.

Political acceptance and participation and direct democracy have a lot to do with economic and social conditions. Those who are particularly irritated by unjust speculation on the price of food or many other areas, which is to the disadvantage of our citizens and to the benefit of a tiny minority, or those who are irritated by tax fraud or other forms of criminal behaviour, often think that the government is responsible and we who govern bear the responsibility. We have to be honest and say that we can only solve many of these problems by taking joint action and adopting joint social standards in combating fraud together. It is difficult to explain to young people today why some people in society earned splendidly before, during and after the economic crisis and why there are still not sufficiently tight rules to end speculation. We need to continue to do everything we can to show that democracy is working and that elected representatives are taking their duties seriously. That is an important contribution to ensuring the acceptance of established democracy. We can never talk too much about acceptance of democracy. Too many people have taken the crisis as an opportunity to criticise the system. We must understand that, and counter the disappointment by redoubling our efforts and ensuring we co-operate.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

The next speaker on the list is Mr Ghiletchi, but I cannot see him in the Assembly so I call Mr Shai, an Observer from Israel.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) (interpretation)

Madam President...

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

I remind you that in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and the code of conduct for members of this Assembly debate must be held in a civilised and disciplined fashion and members must refrain from anything that would disrupt the sitting.

Mr Gaudi Nagy, I am obliged to reprimand you officially and call you to order, and in accordance with Rule 21.2 of our Rules of Procedure that will be explicitly recorded in the minutes of this sitting.

If you are not prepared to comply with that rule, I will be obliged to penalise you further and prevent you from taking the floor at this part-session.

Let us return to our list of speakers. I call Mr Shai from Israel.

MR SHAI (Observer from Israel)

Thank you, Chancellor, for your important speech here today. The Assembly will soon commemorate the Holocaust Memorial Day, and that has a lot to do with my question. As you fully support human rights, what is your position on Iran continuing to carry out a huge number of executions and violating human rights in the country? It shows a beautiful image to the outside world, but we know what is going on inside Iran: the violation of human rights and executions.

Mr DENEMEÇ (Turkey)

One of the priorities of the Austrian chairmanship is to ensure quality education. Education experts agree that pre-school education is greatly beneficial for improving language skills, especially for children from migrant backgrounds. Experts also said migrant children who have a good command of their mother tongue have a better foundation from which to learn the language of the host country. Does Austria have any plans to introduce the languages of the main migrant communities, without exception, into the school curriculum, even as an elective course?

Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) (interpretation)

Some members of the Ukrainian authorities who have been involved in brutal violations of human rights against peaceful protestors in Maidan in Kiev have property and bank accounts in Austria. Federal Chancellor, you talked about the legal basis for sanctions. Will your government use the rules on politically engaged persons to investigate the source of capital as a first step?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

Let me first say something about Ukraine and clarify my points with reference to sanctions, common decisions and the rule of law.

Sanctions are not things that one politician can impose; they involve questions about due process and the rule of law. The political co-operation of all European countries – not just member States of the European Union – to support constructive and peaceful solutions in Ukraine should lead to the exploration of every avenue that is felt to be appropriate by the whole European community. You cannot just have maverick or independent solutions, or someone thinking that they have the panacea to the issue. The process must involve a pooling of efforts. When we talk about sanctions, there has to be due process, and the rule of law must apply.

Regarding Iran, particularly its human rights violations, I want to make certain things clear. I welcome any progress coming out of talks, and many States have committed themselves to achieving progress through negotiation. All those parties know that we are far from the end of our efforts. Particularly when we talk about the prevention of nuclear proliferation, it is necessary for the international community to come out with a clear voice in favour of human rights and against the death penalty. We welcome such efforts, but it is important that we do not overestimate them. I believe that we have a common line on that.

On the quality of education and language skills, migrant integration must take into account the needs of children growing up in the host country to ensure that they have the necessary language skills. There are different ways of achieving that and of ensuring good-quality language education in schools.

Austria is investing a great deal in that. Our foreign ministry used to cover that area, and it was active in ensuring that people could participate in a society. Language skills are particularly important. They require policies not just in schools but in further education. We must not underestimate the need for language skills and must do everything we can to enhance them.

Mr BENEYTO (Spain) (interpretation)

Federal Chancellor, I, too, would like to congratulate you on your work during the Austrian chairmanship.

I am aware of Austria’s great tradition as a mediator. Could the Council of Europe and the Assembly not be a bit more ambitious and take a quantum leap as mediator, and try to help mediate in regional and other conflicts? That is one task we could undertake. We have witnessed the need for that in Ukraine, Egypt and other regional conflicts. Why can we not go further than the European Union?

Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey)

My question about the number of refugees Austria has received was asked by Mr Agramunt, so I will ask a different question.

The international community collaborated on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. Do you have any hope of seeing a similar approach from the international community to achieve a ceasefire or to establish a safe corridor for human rights organisations to reach and help displaced people in Syria?

Mr JAKAVONIS (Lithuania) (interpretation)

A few years ago, Austria received a European arrest warrant against a Russian citizen, Golovatov, who was accused of serious crimes. He was then released. Given what happened in that case, my question is: in your country, do you have dual legal standards?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

As I am sure you are aware, we have just one standard, which is to be applied in the same way each and every time. I am sure that many issues were clarified in the talks that took place between Lithuania and Austria. We had a common ministerial statement on 23 September 2011, which was an opportunity to clear up any differences that may have existed regarding the matter.

Syria has been mentioned many times. I do not need to say to you how hard it has been for the European Union to try to defend its stance. We are talking about terrible social and human conditions, about human beings, and about children in Syria being affected. Many organisations have drawn our attention to the plight in Syria. In the circumstances, how can we make more of a contribution? A lot of help has already been provided; I will not draw up a list of what has been done – for how many refugees, by whom, how much money the European Union has spent; and how much it has yet to spend. I do not want to talk about statistics and overwhelm you with them. I would simply say that I share your concerns.

The talks, whose purpose is to find a peaceful solution in Syria, are unfortunately stalling; they are going forward, but very slowly. As far as I am concerned, the only answer I can provide is this: the Council of Europe and the European Union need to get on board the process and do their part. Such efforts are necessary because we need to reduce human suffering.

We can also act as mediators. Mr Beneyto talked about Austria’s role and asked whether we could play a more active role. I thank him for mentioning that, because Bruno Kreisky played an important role in the Near East when he was in power. However, it was done with the international community of States.

Developing closer relations within Europe is important, particularly involving institutions such as the Council of Europe and the European Union. That rapprochement, which we have witnessed not only the past few years but over the past few decades, is a solid basis from which we could help out in Syria, the Near East or other conflict areas, and we can act together.

A common external policy would be quite a challenge. It must be acknowledged that even in the European Union, we do not have a strong common foreign policy to date. However, I believe that that is the direction, and there have been positive steps in that direction. As Federal Chancellor of Austria, I fully support that. Thank you, Madam President, for your positive comments, which I fully support, vis-á-vis our ambassador in Strasbourg.


I have two more speakers on my list. Even though it is 12.59 p.m. I think we should allow them to ask their questions. I call Ms Oehri and Mr Moreno Palanques.

Ms OEHRI (Liechtenstein) (interpretation)

Thank you so much, Federal Chancellor, for your interesting statement. Liechtenstein is a neighbour of Austria and of Vorarlberg in particular. There has been a lot of criticism lately of the way in which fracking technology might be deployed in the Bodensee region. Unfortunately, it could result in negative ramifications for the environment. What do you think are the prospects of fracking in Austria and its neighbouring countries?

Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain) (interpretation)

We all know that the European Union cannot take a backward step, so we have to act much faster, not just in purely economic terms, but in terms of economic and social union. I think the European Union wants more Europe, but I sometimes get the impression that it is not particularly aware of its responsibility to build Europe. How would you, Federal Chancellor, raise awareness among the citizens of Europe so that, after the elections, we can overcome a potential paradox whereby the most powerful parliament ever turns out to be the weakest ever because of the great number of Eurosceptics among its ranks?

Mr Faymann, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (interpretation)

Thank you for that question. It was important for me to emphasise in my statement that Eurosceptics and their criticisms appear all the stronger when we are unable to come up with common solutions. It is easier simply to turn something down and reject it. When the community of nations or the European Union fail to solve a problem, they generate problems for themselves, which is not very constructive. If it is worthwhile to build Europe and if we wish to continue that positive process, we must ensure, regardless of which ideological direction we come from, that the banking union, which is so important, the rulings on the financial market and the rescue plans we have created are not the end of the story. We must go much further and solve many other problems of a social nature.

It was so important to emphasise that, because in an address of 15 or 20 minutes not all the issues can be touched on, but it was important for me to focus on those few aspects, because I am convinced that it is important to the people of Europe that we show the link between our current economic and social solutions. We must concentrate on those and not simply stop at our supervisory mechanisms on banks and the financial sector. We need to develop the social aspect of Europe. As was shown in the 1930s, it is not enough simply to protect certain things, for example, by ensuring that a bank which might be relevant to a whole sector does not collapse. We need to go beyond such action. We must show that we need to tackle seriously this massive youth unemployment, the average length of which increases every year.

As for Liechtenstein and shale gas, in our discussions in Austria we are sceptical about the extraction of shale gas. We say that we have to assess the suitability of the location, and that the technological prerequisites and other aspects have yet to be fulfilled. We need to think about the potential effects on the water table, and the technology is not yet right. As is so often the case when dealing with technology, two potential approaches are available. Some say that the preconditions will never exist, whereas others say that it is a question of how much we invest in research and development to ensure that the economic prerequisites are met. Europe is in an awkward situation on energy policy, because we need to maintain Europe as an attractive place in which to manufacture and energy plays a key role in that. That raises the important question of whether we will be able to exploit shale gas – whether we can use it – in an environmentally friendly way. At the moment, at least in the locations we have looked into, our immediate answer is that we cannot; this technology is not yet ready and the time is not yet ripe. There is a pressing need to find alternative, affordable sources of energy, but we also need to think about the technology we will be using and the technology for shale gas is not yet ready.

I should like to thank all those who put questions to me and the Bureau. I also thank you, Madam President, for this very constructive discussion and for having the opportunity to address you.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

I thank you, Mr Faymann, most warmly on behalf of all of us. I thank you for your address and for your firm commitment to social issues, which is certainly what we noted from what you said. We are delighted to look to the future and to continuing our fruitful co-operation with the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and through other channels. You may rest assured that we are very much looking forward to meeting you again in Vienna.