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VISIT TO AUSTRIA

The FMA Board member Lord Richard Balfe led an FMA delegation composed of 24 former MEPs from twelve EU countries and four European political families (EPP-ED, Socialists, Liberals and Greens), that visited Austria from 28 to 30 October on the occasion of the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The FMA in co-operation with the Austrian Association of former parliamentarians set up a programme aimed at evaluating progress towards achievements of the EU Presidency. It included official meetings with Parliament, government and international organisations’ representatives, as well as an open debate with university students.

The programme started with a meeting of the delegation with the Secretary General of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Mr Thomas Greminger, who stated: “The OSCE is the platform for inclusive dialogue addressing a broad range of security issues in the Euroatlantic and Eurasian area”. There has been some discussions on the major challenges to security in Europe, with an emphasis to the efforts still needed to achieve comprehensive ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine.

A special session was devoted to the important work carried out by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in the field of election observation and its follow-up actions.

The FMA underlined the valuable resource represented by former MEPs, who can greatly contribute to the success of the ODIHR EOMs thanks to their political background, expertise and availability.

During the meetings held with Ms Karoline Edtstadler, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior as well as with Austrian parliamentarians, it was reaffirmed the necessity to continue the Western Balkans topic, also to fight against terrorism successfully, and provide a European prospect for the whole region. It was reminded that Austria plays a crucial role thanks to its cultural understanding of diversity and ability to act as a bridge between Eastern and Western countries.

There was no substantial progress registered on the reform of the Common European Asylum System, and it was reiterated the necessity to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex. A recurrent issue was the adoption of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework and the impact of Brexit.

An animated debate with university students organised by the EP Liaison Office in Vienna proved that the youngest generations are ready to involve in constructive dialogue. The discussion mainly focused on how to raise the interest of EU citizens in the forthcoming European elections and how the relevant information and facts regarding the EU dossiers can reach the ordinary people with an active involvement and participation, starting with an understandable language and comprehensible documents.

The series of meetings was concluded by interesting and stimulating exchanges with representatives of the following international organisations kindly invited by H.E. Maria Assunta Accili Sabbatini, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, to present their work and their answers to present challenges in their respective fields of action:

  • UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization)
  • IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)
  • UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)
  • CTBTO (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization)
  • UNOOSA (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs)

The discussion proved the importance of the existence of these institutions and the need for further support by the international community.

A complete report on the visit will be published in the December Bulletin. Photos of the visit are available here.