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Austro-Finnish EU Presidency Program in 2006

Austria and Finland are to prepare a common program for their EU presidencies in 2006, according to government officials.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Helsinki on Wednesday, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel confirmed the idea. "We have a common goal to build a common program for the whole year, and we will have a lot of cooperation during the year 2006," Vanhanen said in Helsinki, according to AFP. The two countries often worked closely together during the negotiations on a new European Constitution, sometimes leading the battle in defence of small countries' rights. "We think it will be a practical tool for continuity," Helena Tuuri, an adviser to the Finnish premier in EU affairs told the EUobserver. A special seminar will be organized in spring to prepare the two presidencies. Austria will be at the helm from Jan. 1 2006 with Finland taking over from July 1. The year 2006 is set to be a difficult one for the European Union with the ratification of the European Constitution via referenda in a number of member states. Neither Austria nor Finland will be holding such a referendum. The other difficult task for the two presidencies in 2006 will be to find agreement over financing the EU's budget from 2007 to 2013. (EUobserver.com)

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