Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz spoke with New Europe concerning the battle in opposition to the coronavirus pandemic, the teachings for the European Union, and the place of net-payers in the direction of the multi-billion-euro recovery-plan put forth by the EU Commission.
NEW EUROPE (NE): The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has simply proposed a €750 billion fund for restructuring the EU after the pandemic by way of grants and credit. You have all the time spoken out in opposition to widespread money owed and a rise of the widespread EU funds, i.e. for a most of 1.1% of the GDP.
SEBASTIAN KURZ (SK): This is a troublesome debate on the European degree. Countries like France, Italy, or Spain demand some huge cash from EU companions and net-payers like Germany, Austria, or the Netherlands, which is comprehensible from their viewpoint. It is obvious to us that we now have to point out solidarity and we wish to assist. The “frugal four” (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria) wish to make this contribution by way of loans, however not with further grants, and definitely not with a shared debt-burden. The proposal by the EU Commission is a place to begin for the negotiations that are starting now.
NE: The former head of Eurogroup’s working-group, Austria’s Thomas Wieser, has pleaded for extra expenditure and mentioned that it’s going to not work with out non-repayable grants.
SK: There are completely different approaches to the negotiations. I perceive that some nations wish to get a greater deal for themselves, however that those that should pay try to hit the brakes must also be comprehensible and legit.
NE: At the start of the corona pandemic, the EU appeared to have disappeared. There have been no warnings or directions, not even from the EU epidemic management institute ECDC in Sweden. Were you upset by this?
SK: We have been stunned. The proven fact that we acquired criticism from the Commission for closing our borders to Italy was additionally sudden. This was a fully mandatory measure to battle this pandemic. There was additionally some stress amongst European nations when France and Germany imposed export bans on medical items. Cooperation on the European degree is now working comparatively effectively once more. We are additionally trying on the initiative of the President of the Commission to analysis a vaccine as a really constructive growth.
NE: The EU Commission just lately organised a donor convention to analysis a vaccine and medication in opposition to COVID-19. €7.four billion have been collected. Will the EU take the lead in preventing the virus, provided that the US appears to want going it alone?
SK: I’m very grateful to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for this initiative, as a result of the event of a vaccine is of the utmost significance proper now, not just for well being however above all so far as the financial perspective of Europe’s nations is worried. And that’s why the EU nations have contributed generously to it. I’m more than happy with this.
NE: Which lockdown measure was essentially the most troublesome for you, personally?
SK: The most troublesome factor originally was to implement the lockdown in opposition to the resistance of some decision-makers as a result of at the moment we had comparatively few instances in Austria. Problem consciousness and an understanding of the virus’ exponential progress weren’t but obtainable.
NE: Why was Italy’s name for assist adopted up on so late? A majority of Italians are actually very sceptical concerning the EU, in line with surveys.
SK: At the start, all EU nations needed to battle with the availability of protecting gear themselves. As quickly because it turned doable, nonetheless, quite a few member states instantly supplied assist. Austria, for instance, took in some intensive care sufferers from Italy and provided disinfectants and masks. After the disaster, we within the EU must discuss what we will be taught and the way Europe can develop into extra self-sufficient.
NE: Critics and populists see the tip of the EU and consider they will hear the demise toll ringing. There was a return to the nation-state through the disaster. What ought to the EU concentrate on to cease the lack of its relevance?
SK: There is not any level in bad-mouthing the European Union. I feel these doomsday situations usually are not solely misplaced, but additionally removed from any actuality. But, after all, after a disaster, it’s best to all the time query what was accomplished proper and what may have been accomplished higher. In common, my authorities’s purpose is obvious: we wish a robust European Union that works much more intently and deeply on the key points, and the place the member states additionally take motion on points the place they will make higher choices.
NE: There is concern a few doable second wave of the virus this autumn. Will your authorities then have to make use of coercive measures on the inhabitants? Your advisor, Antonella Mei-Pochtler, spoke of “tools on the margins of democracy”, together with a compulsory app for the detection of contagion processes.
SK: Experts have completely different opinions on this. Our line as a federal authorities in terms of this app is obvious. The Ministry of Health decides what’s permitted. It is essential to maintain the variety of infections low and on the similar time to restart our economic system once more as shortly as doable. We are doing very effectively in Austria, in the meanwhile, and we hope that it’s going to proceed to take action.
NE: In Austria, the tourism sector has been very affected by the epidemic. Are you continue to anticipating a summer season season, albeit a restricted one?
SK: We simply determined with our neighbouring nations -with the exception of Italy – to reopen the borders. That can be within the sense of our pro-European course. I might contemplate it problematic if the borders remained closed, though the safety scenario would enable them to be opened.
NE: A brand new EU legislation in opposition to the takeover of key corporations by third nations is deliberate in autumn. This is to stop China, particularly, from with the ability to cheaply purchase out troubled corporations due to the disaster. Should one plan even be to deliver essential productions just like the pharmaceutical trade again to Europe?
SK: One lesson from the disaster should positively be that extra regionalism and self-sufficiency is required once more within the nations of the EU. It begins with meals and ends with pharmaceutical manufacturing.
NE: Does that additionally apply to infrastructure? China already has purchased the ports of Piraeus (Greece) and Trieste (Italy).
SK: This is a delicate concern. The safety of investments in strategically essential areas is, after all, mandatory in a globalised world like in the present day.
NE: You often seek the advice of with the heads of presidency from Israel, Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece on corona-related points. Will this cooperation be prolonged to different areas?
SK: We have a very good alternate with different nations that, like us, have come by way of this disaster effectively. These nations reacted early, reacted intensely. and are actually in a greater place. We exchanged views on methods to get the nations up and working once more, methods to increase the economic system and methods to hold the virus underneath management. We additionally discuss how we will be a part of forces when researching a vaccine or a drug. And it was an important alternate, as a result of these nations like Israel, Australia, and New Zealand or in Europe the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, and Denmark, with whom we now have labored intensively up to now weeks and months, we now have discovered so much from one another.
NE: Corona has put the media underneath explicit strain, although increasingly persons are in want of dependable info. Should there be monetary support for this trade, from both the nationwide governments or from the EU?
SK: The corona disaster poses monumental financial challenges for a lot of areas, together with for the media. In order to allow journalistic work and to assist job safety, we because the federal authorities, have created particular funding that’s based mostly on the prevailing standards for the funding of the press. This assist serves to take care of an unbiased, pluralistic, and various media panorama.
NE: The German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe raised an objection to the European Central Bank’s bond-purchase programme in a much-discussed judgment. What penalties may this have for the EU?
SK: We took notice of this judgment of the German Constitutional Court with nice curiosity, and our specialists, notably within the constitutional service, are actually analysing the doable implications very rigorously.
NE: Austria and Hungary blocked a typical important place of the EU in regards to the deliberate annexation of elements of the West Bank by Israel. What was the reasoning behind this?
SK: The programme of the federal government incorporates clear language about Austria’s historic duty to Israel. I feel this is essential as Austria, in contrast to Germany, has not absolutely lived as much as its historic duty for a few years. Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg outlined that we didn’t assume it was the appropriate second to greet the Israeli authorities on the day of the inauguration with an specific warning in opposition to the annexation of the West Bank. But there isn’t a doubt concerning the Austrian place on annexation, – Austria’s purple line is worldwide legislation.