The Conference of Speakers of the EU Parliaments took place in Vienna on 8 and 9 April. Switzerland attended the event as an observer at the invitation of the Austrian parliament and was represented by Council of States president Jean-René Fournier.
The conference takes place annually and is always organised by the country that held the EU Council presidency in the previous six-month period. The event is part of what is known as the parliamentary dimension of the EU Council presidency, which aims to strengthen the role of national parliaments in the EU’s legislative process.
In an important year for the EU, participants focused on the challenges facing the block over the coming months: on the one hand, the upcoming European elections and the renewal of the European institutions, and on the other hand, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Emphasis was placed on the role of national parliaments as a link between citizens and the institutions of the EU, and, in connection with this, the importance of the principle of subsidiarity. Participants agreed that the EU should concentrate on tasks and challenges that member states cannot tackle individually, for example environmental policy, border security, migration or economic policy.
Mr Fournier used the opportunity to network with around 50 counterparts from 37 European countries to maintain his contacts with other parliaments. He held talks with the two hosts of the conference, the president of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, and the president of the Austrian Federal Council, Ingo Appé. He also held further meetings with Daniel Günther, president of the German Bundesrat, and Jean Bizet, the president of the French Senate’s Committee for European Affairs. Mr Fournier used these meetings to discuss the ongoing consultations in Switzerland on the institutional agreement with the EU, and explain the national political situation with a view to the upcoming elections in the autumn. The European Commission’s decision to only extend the Swiss stock market’s equivalence temporarily was also discussed. Finally, Mr Fournier met two parliamentary speakers from the EFTA partner states, Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen, president of the Norwegian parliament, and Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, president of the Icelandic parliament.
The copyright for the following photos of the conference is held by the Austrian Parliament.