EU election candidates discussed their positions at WU


On June 3, a high-profile panel discussion on Campus WU brought together Austria’s leading candidates for the EU Parliament election.

At the invitation of WU Vienna University of Economics and Business and the Austrian Society for European Politics (ÖGfE), the candidates discussed their visions for Europe’s future during this event, entitled “EU matters.” The discussion attracted a large audience, filling WU’s Audimax auditorium to the last seat.

A total of more than 600 people came to listen to the discussion. “It has always been the job of universities to encourage discourse and the exchange of ideas, so we’re particularly pleased about this opportunity to welcome the Austrian candidates to Campus WU so close before the election date. Openness, integrity, and appreciation are our core values at WU, and I hope that they also form the basis for a strong democratic spirit shared by everyone in the EU,” WU Rector Rupert Sausgruber said in his words of welcome at the “EU matters” event. Paul Schmidt, secretary general of the ÖGfE, moderated the panel discussion. In his keynote speech, Gabriel Felbermayr, professor at WU’s Department of Economics and director of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), highlighted the benefits of the EU. “Even today, EU membership is paying off for Austria. Approximately 8% of our economic wealth would disappear if the EU were to fall apart, that is almost 4,000 euros per person. Austria’s net contribution to the EU budget, on the other hand, amounts to no more than 150 euros per capita,” Professor Felbermayr pointed out.

Different perspectives on the EU

In the following discussion, the candidates responded to the points raised in the keynote speech. “If the EU didn’t exist already, we’d have to found right now. The Union clearly protects and benefits us all,” said Reinhold Lopatka, the lead candidate for the ÖVP party. Evelyn Regner, the SPÖ candidate, emphasized the advantages of the EU. “The EU strengthens the welfare state in Europe. The Union makes us stronger, but we must improve the distribution of wealth within our societies and among the member states themselves,” Regner said. Petra Steger, the FPÖ candidate, criticized what she labeled “over-regulation” on the part of the EU. “The EU and its basic underlying idea are important, in principle. It must focus on its core responsibilities: ensuring peace, freedom, prosperity, and security. But we’re seeing misguided developments in these areas,” Steger argued. The lead candidate of the Greens, Lena Schilling, stressed the urgency of climate policies. “Mobility and power generation are key issues for the future of the EU.” NEOS lead candidate Helmut Brandstätter said, “The challenges facing the EU are much greater today than they were only a few years ago. We need to invest more in research, more in education.”

After the panel discussion, the politicians took questions from the audience: How can we combat populism and corruption in the EU? What are the implications of the new supply chain laws? What approach should the EU take in dealing with China as a major economic power? Will the EU be able to strengthen its economic standing in the next ten years? How can we design a functional European asylum system?

Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

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