Ambassador Hans Winkler Delivers Public Lecture on Europe’s Global Role

Ambassador Hans Winkler

On February the 22nd, CEU President and Rector John Shattuck, and the Department of International Relations and European Studies; the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Public Policy, hosted Ambassador Hans Winkler, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria, for a public lecture: “Lisbon Treaty–Has Europe become a player on the Global Stage?”

Opening remarks were made by Professor John Shattuck, who highlighted the relevance of the subject and its ramifications for current research; and HE Michael Zimmermann, Ambassador of Austria to Hungary. The subsequent discussion was chaired by Uwe Puetter, Professor, Department of Public Policy.

Ambassador Winkler’s lecture explored the evolving nature of Europe’s role in international relations after the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. It is the Ambassador’s position that the creation of new institutions, and the appointment of individuals with substantial political capital to lead them, is likely to be the most dramatic development yet for the strengthening of the European Union’s quest for a harmonized and meaningful foreign policy.

In his lecture, Winkler explored the procedural improvements that Lisbon has made to address the claims of democratic deficit lingering from the Treaty of Nice–stating that the average European citizen now demands more transparency from the European Union than they do from their respective national governments. The Treaty of Lisbon tackles the erosion of power of national parliaments resulting from European integration, increases citizens’ participation through the European Parliament, and strengthens human rights through the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Winkler addressed the consensual and coordinated nature of a European common foreign policy, which remains a competence of the national states, and therefore based on inter-governmental harmonization. Nevertheless, the strength of Lisbon lies on the newly-created post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs. How much authority this new post will muster vis-à-vis national governments remains an exciting question for the Ambassador, who has high hopes for the strong will of political elites and citizens alike to create a genuinely supra-national foreign policy.

Winkler’s assessment of the first few months of this new European order was sobering. The relative failure of the EU to adopt a common position during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and particularly President Obama’s opt-out of a planned EU-US summit, have put the new institutional framework to the test. However, he reiterated his optimism for the future and his confidence in the European Union’s capacity to learn and overcome its own internal divisions and realize its full potential after the Treaty of Lisbon.

Ambassador Hans Winkler has been the Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna since April 2009. Until December 2008, he served as State Secretary in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. He has also headed the International Law Department in the Foreign Ministry and has acted as Ambassador to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.