English translation (Deep L)
Edtstadler: EU must pay attention to freedom of the press
It is a “basic requirement of having democracies”, says the Minister for Europe and rejects threats of expulsion in case of problems with the rule of law.
EU Minister Karoline Edtstadler sees the EU as having a responsibility to watch out for press freedom in its member countries. In an interview with former ORF staffer Brigitte Rambossek, published on the homepage of the “Association of European Journalists” (AEJ Austria) at the weekend, Edtstadler said when asked about “problem countries” such as Hungary, Poland or Slovenia: If there is an “issue” in these countries, it is important to “work from the European side to ensure that freedom of the press is respected”.
The “very high value of freedom of the press” is “beyond doubt” for her, the ÖVP politician explained in the conversation with the Austrian section of the AEJ held on the sidelines of the “Forum Alpbach”. “It is anchored in the Human Rights Convention and is a basic prerequisite for us to have democracies. We have had the Rule of Law Report for a year. The second country report has now come out. With that, you can take the temperature of the rule of law, based on the same parameters.” Asked who should do this within the European Union, Edtstadler stated, “The Commission is the guardian of the treaties and produces the Rule of Law Report. I see it as having a responsibility to try to intervene.”
“Point out deficits with rule of law”
The national conservative governments in Poland, Slovenia and Hungary are accused by critics of turning public service media into mouthpieces for their policies and of drying up critical private media financially or silencing them legally. In Slovenia, for example, the news agency STA was recently cut off from public funding. In the AEJ-Austria interview, Edtstaler also pointed out that Austria traditionally had a “bridge-building function” with these “eastern states”.
In general, Edtstadler rejected linking discussions on the rule of law within the EU or in the case of corresponding problems in its member states with threats of exclusion. This was “not even an issue”. “If there are deficits in the rule of law, this must be pointed out.” The right approach was to “talk to each other”, Edtstadler demanded. The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) minister, however, also qualified: “Some things are the responsibility of the nation state, there is an end to the influence. But I think it would be completely wrong and send the wrong signal to threaten to throw the country out.” (quoted by apa, Austrian news agency)