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Wachau European Forum: Building a resilient, green and competitive Europe – Vindobona.org

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Ahead of this year’s event, Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner stressed the importance of the EU and its need to move in the right direction. She called for an EU of peace, freedom and competitiveness, rather than a union of commands and prohibitions. The Wachau European Forum and the efforts deployed at European level should contribute to creating an “alliance of wise men” and to shaping a Europe which faces major challenges with common sense and which takes into account citizens’ concerns.

On the first day of the Europe Forum, the focus was on healthcare and telemedicine in the morning and on hydrogen and its potential applications in the afternoon.

The 27th European Forum was opened by President Martin Eichtinger in the presence of Serbian Minister of Justice Maja Popović. In his speech, Eichtinger highlighted cooperation between European countries and praised the impetus provided by regions such as Lower Austria. He underlined the importance of the EU and the diversity which gives it the strength and creativity necessary to face existential crises. He said that the Europa Forum Wachau represents the commitment of Lower Austria as the heart of the EU.

In her speech, Maja Popović highlighted the importance of a modern judicial system as a basis for economic investments and legal frameworks to promote integration into the EU.

In a video message, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, discussed building a resilient, green and competitive Europe as well as the next steps in digital regulation, particularly in telemedicine and smart mobility.

The President of the Economic Chamber, Harald Mahrer, emphasized the need for education, science and research as the basis for economic competitiveness. Close cooperation with the business community is necessary to find innovative solutions, he said.

Another point in the program was devoted to the theme “Investing in health”. This year, the focus was on telemedicine, its possible applications and the financing of a modern health system. Representatives of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund and UMIT TIROL spoke about the transformation of the healthcare system and the importance of health for the well-being and quality of life of the population.

The President of the Europa-Forum Wachau, Martin Eichtinger, summarized the exciting discussions of the morning on the topics of health, education and the economy and showed the direction in which Europe could go the future.

The other program of the day included discussion forums on the theme of mobility and the “Salon de l’Economie”. Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Federal Ministers Alexander Schallenberg, Martin Polaschek and Karoline Edtstadler continued the Wachau European Forum with their opening speeches and round tables.

Italian Prime Minister Meloni at the European Forum

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev accepted the invitation of the Federal Chancellor, heads of state and government respectively, to participate in the Wachau European Forum. “The Wachau meeting is an expression of friendly relations between Austria and Italy,” the Chancellor said in a press release.

The timing of the meeting was “well chosen, in particular because of the European Council at the end of June”, because the opportunity will also be taken advantage of by the two heads of government to coordinate, in particular on common positions in the fight against illegal immigration. , Nehammer said.

Austria and Italy, as well as Bulgaria, are close allies in the fight against illegal immigration, he said, adding that they had joined other partner countries to press in advance in order to include this issue on the summit agenda. “The asylum system in Europe has failed, which is why we are calling together for a reform of the system, particularly with regard to the management of external borders and cooperation with third countries,” stressed the Chancellor.

Bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU

On the sidelines of the European Forum in Wachau, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg presented the “Göttweig Declaration” together with his counterparts from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Croatia. This declaration was published by the “Friends of the Western Balkans” and calls for a gradual and accelerated integration of the region into the European Union. Schallenberg also highlighted the importance of an exchange with Bosnian civil society and took part in a round table on EU enlargement.

The Western Balkans Friends group, launched by Foreign Minister Schallenberg, aims to advance the enlargement process to Southeast Europe. It is time to put words into action, 20 years after the EU-Western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki, said Schallenberg. With the Goettweig Declaration, Schallenberg and his counterparts from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Croatia want to give weight to this goal. Italy, Slovenia and Greece are also part of this Austrian initiative.

The Göttweig Declaration calls for accelerated integration of the Western Balkan states through concrete implementation measures. These states should be more closely integrated into European policies and bodies even before their accession. In the particular context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, it is in the EU’s interest to engage more closely with its Western Balkan partners on foreign and security issues. The problems occurring in South-Eastern Europe have a direct impact on us.

Furthermore, to promote the Euro-Atlantic integration process at the civil society level, the Department of State, in collaboration with the US Department of State, organized workshops for political, civil society and of the diaspora from the Western Balkan countries. The first workshop, focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, aimed to develop concrete proposals and recommendations for the country’s European path. On the second day of the workshop, Foreign Minister Schallenberg and US Special Representative for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar highlighted the important role of the Bosnian diaspora in Austria as a bridge between Bosnia and the EU.

Exchanges between different population groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina and new approaches to cooperation are more important than ever to link the country to the Western value system in the long term and advance the reform process. The joint initiative of Austria and the United States offers the next generation a platform for their visions of the future, said Schallenberg, satisfied with the successful launch of the project. During a round table at the European Forum in Wachau, Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that the EU, despite all the attention it pays to Ukraine, must not lose sight of the countries of the Southeast Europe. If the EU sends a signal to its eastern neighbors, it must also assume its geopolitical responsibility towards South-Eastern Europe.

The Europa Forum Wachau workshop marks the start of a long-term dialogue. The Department of State and the U.S. Department of State are helping Bosnia’s younger generation actively shape their future. The Bosnian diaspora in Austria plays an important role as a bridge between the two countries. The aim of the workshop was to jointly develop concrete proposals and recommendations for the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Wachau European Forum


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