AK President Renate Anderl and ÖGB President Wolfgang Katzian invited guests to the traditional New Year’s Reception hosted by AK EUROPA and the ÖGB Europabüro, the Brussels Office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, which this year took place on 30th January 2019. This year too, almost 300 guests attended the event. Both Presidents made urgent appeals to the public to embrace a social Europe, as this would be crucial for the future of the European Union.
Welcoming address by Ambassador Nikolaus Marschik
Ambassador Nikolaus Marschik opened the New Year’s Reception in his capacity as the host and gave a review on the Austrian Presidency in the second half of 2018. It was thanks to the tireless efforts of the staff of the Permanent Representation that agreement had been reached in case of many key files. This included the general approach regarding the European Labour Authority, the Work-Life Balance Directive as well as new rules to better protect workers from exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances. He thanked social partners AK and ÖGB and underlined the good cooperation in Brussels and the significance of the social partnership at national and European level.
AK President Renate Anderl: The social question is Europe’s vital question
The President of the Federal Chamber of Labour, Renate Anderl, also looked back on the Austrian Presidency. Only upon the insistence of workers representations the Commission proposal on the European Labour Authority had been intensively negotiated in order to reach agreement by the end of the Presidency. However, she also mentioned the overdue tax policy reforms to achieve a little more tax justice. The fact that multinational corporations were able to save billions of taxes has justifiably no acceptance by Europe’s citizens. Genuine European cooperation means that tax and social dumping is tackled effectively. A Europe of togetherness and cohesion had to be paramount to ensure that not only a few but all would benefit from the European Union.
ÖGB President Wolfgang Katzian: A Europe of people and solidarity
Wolfgang Katzian, ÖGB President, reminded the audience of the achievements of the successful Austrian social partnership, which – according to Katzian – was enshrined in the DNA of the people in Austria. It was based on the principles of voluntariness and solidarity. Above all, this also included a determined fight against wage and social dumping at European level. However, he voiced the concern that the European Labour Authority could become a toothless tiger if its planned responsibilities would not be extended.
ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini: For a strong social partnership in Austria
General Secretary of ETUC, Luca Visentini, emphasised the indicatory developments, Europe will be confronted with in 2019. From a worker’s point of view, the EU election in May will be of vital importance. However, he was concerned about the latest developments regarding the social partnership in Austria. Visentini also referred to the fact that many workers and employees would vote for parties that are critical against Europe, but would fail to recognize that in doing so they would jeopardize many important achievements of the social partners, which affect every single one of us. From a trade union point of view it would be important to support a clear and socially fair model in Europe, which prioritizes workers and employees.
Nicolas Schmit: The alternative to Europe is chaos
The former Luxembourg Minister of Labour Nicolas Schmit, who might be in line as a future Commissioner, only sees one way for the future: a socially strong Europe. The negotiations around Great Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would only produce losers. Furthermore Brexit shows the chaos, which is created when Member States leave the joint European path. Hence, it was obvious that the future lies in a strong Europe that does justice to its social responsibility and which gives especially young people in Europe a clear signal for a positive future.
Together in a forward-looking year 2019
This year too, almost three hundred guests attended the New Year’s Reception of AK EUROPA and the ÖGB Europabüro, which was held at the Permanent Representation of Austria. Apart from Christoph Leitl, President EUROCHAMBRES, many MEPs such as Evelyn Regner, Eugen Freund, Karoline Graswander-Hainz and Monika Vana were also present.
The 13th New Year’s Reception was an extremely successful start to the political year 2019, which will be indicatory for the European Union in respect of the next decade. We would like to thank all guests and friends for their participation and are looking forward to a successful cooperation!