Austria opposes Juncker’s wish to expand euro zone

Austria’s leaders on Thursday expressed their opposition to the wish of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to see a maximum of European Union (EU) members join the euro zone, pointing to the Greek crisis as a precedent not to be repeated.

“I think this concept is not thought through,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern (Social Democrats) said, stressing that Europe’s priorities should instead be fighting tax fraud and social dumping, and calling for strict respect for Maastricht’s criteria. “As long as all this has not been dealt with, it makes no sense to enlarge the euro zone since that would only make the problems bigger,” he said on Ö1 Public Radio, pointing to Greece as a “typical example”.

In his state-of-the-union address on Wednesday, Juncker had recalled that “the euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole”, adding: “This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (Conservatives), the frontrunner for early elections to be held in Austria on the 15th of October, also brandished Greece as an example.

“The euro and the Schengen zone are open to everybody, but only for those that fulfill the criteria,” he said. “If the criteria are not met, nothing is possible. We must avoid another situation like the one in Greece.”

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s main opposition party, the extreme right FPÖ, recalled that some EU countries had no wish to join the Euro zone. “Evidently, they want to force those that don’t wish to do so,” he said, accusing Juncker of being a “centralizer” who “has learnt nothing from Brexit”.

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