Introduction by Cándido Méndez: Meeting with chancellor Schüssel
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Thank you Chancellor for agreeing to meet us at the start of the Austrian Presidency and thanks to Fritz and the ÖGB for facilitating the meeting.
Our initial impressions of the Austrian Presidency are good and we are generally pleased by the spirit and positive start that you have made.
Last year was a very difficult one for the EU - economic problems, the no votes in France and the Netherlands, the controversies over the budget, a rise in Euroscepticism in many countries, and an unnecessary argument about whether or not there is a European social model.
But there was an improvement in December. The economic outlook has brightened a little, the budget was settled and Europe held together in the trade talks in Hongkong. We hope that now we can take advantage of the upturn and start rebuilding for the future.
In particular, we welcome your intention to explore how to revive the EU constitution - a measure the ETUC support strongly.
We are also pleased to see the immediate emphasis you are putting on the economy and the labour market.
Finally, I know the General Secretary will develop the point but we are pleased by the approach you took on the proposed Services Directive at the London informal social summit. We are interested in becoming involved in the next stages of developing a much improved Services Directive.
I now pass the floor to the General Secretary.
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