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It is a fixed date in the calendar of many in Brussels: the New Year’s Reception hosted by AK EUROPA, the Brussels Office of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour and the ÖGB Europabüro, the Brussels Office of the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions. Thus, the rooms were well filled by attending guests. However, the evening programme did not only feature delicacies from the Austrian cuisine, but also political demands.

“A critical, but also passionate European” – described AK President Rudi Kaske not only himself but also the new Director of the Chamber of Labour, Christoph Klein. In spite of the prevailing uncertainty, one should not get stuck in a kind of European tristesse, said Kaske. “However, coming up with pleasant messages alone does not help either!” But despite of all the criticism: The EU must not be allowed to fail. The AK President once again repeated the demand for expanding public investments – the Chamber of Labour has been demanding the addition of a “Golden Investment Rule” to the Fiscal Compact for a long time – and of more social justice, whereby special emphasis had to be put on combatting tax evasion: “It shows a great lack of solidarity when the superrich and multinational corporations abdicate their social responsibility by minimizing their own tax payments with the help of various evasion strategies and tricks.”

In his statement, Erich Foglar, President des Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB), referred to the negative impact of a policy of wage restraint and austerity: “Instead of social convergence, we have for some years directly followed the path of the downward spiral, for example with regard to the divergent development of wages. Even the four most recent EU Member States with the highest per capita income (Slovenia, Czechia, Hungary and Croatia) have been recording, compared to Germany and Austria, since 2008 a continuous drop in their relative per capita income.” Hence, the ÖGB will continue to commit itself to the fight against wage and social dumping.

As a last point, the Maltese EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella gave a brief overview on his priorities for 2017 during the six months of the Maltese Presidency, including the plans of the Commission for green jobs and for the circular economy. He also pointed out the important position of the social partnership with in the European dialogue.

Among the guests was also Carinthia's State Governor Peter Kaiser, who, like many others, used the erected photo wall to take a small memento of the reception home.

Photos can be seen here.