Published on July 1st, 2018

Austria takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Bulgaria

Today, on 1 July, Austria takes over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the third time. The next six months they set some new topics to the agenda, negotiate between the member states and represent the Council internal and external. If you want to know more about the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, you can check this page, their program you can find on the Austrian Presidency website. So, let’s have a look at what they have planned and what that means for Europe.

How will the U.K. leave?

Because Austria holds the last presidency before the upcoming European Parliament elections, there are still a lot of topics up for discussion that must be decided upon before. One of the most important is without a doubt Brexit. A lot of pressure lays on the negotiators because several issues are not fixed yet and there are different opinions on topics, one of them the border of Northern Ireland. To also give the European Parliament enough time to decide on the final Brexit deal, the decision of the Council must be made in October. This means that all national parliaments need to ratify the final deal. Austria’s aim here is to negotiate a strong partnership for future cooperation between the U.K. and Europe. Kurz, chancellor of Austria, also considers this as a model for other countries, e.g. Turkey.

Where will the money go?

One of the main points will also be the draft of the seven-year EU budget for 2021-2027. There will be negotiations, but a deal is not expected in the time of the Austrian presidency. At the beginning of May, Kurz said, the proposed budget in its current form is not acceptable for him. He wants to focus on a more efficient and economic usage of European tax payers’ money and spend more for border protection.

Further reform approaches

Austria also wants to evaluate current EU development and funding programs to adjust them to current conditions, further key points are deregulation and renationalization of competences. So the general division of responsibilities between the EU and the member states may change drastically. This is also seen as a major topic of the 2019 election campaigns.

What Europe do we want?

Austria answers this question with the slogan that accompanies their presidency: “We want a Europe that protects”. So, they are focusing on three ways to achieve this: immigration, digitalization, and stability. Inner security and the fight against illegal immigration are the topics with which Kurz’ party won the national elections in Austria last year. They will pursue them also during the presidency and set a focus on the external border protection, not discussing the distribution of refugees between the member states anymore. Up for discussion will also be the extension of the mandate of EU border protection agency Frontex.

According to Austria, digitalization should be promoted. To ensure and strengthen prosperity and competitiveness, Europe should implement the Digital Single Market. By this is meant the strategy of the European Commission to ensure access to online activities for individuals and businesses under conditions of fair competition, consumer and data protection, removing geo-blocking and copyright issues.

To enhance stability in the neighbourhood, Austria wants to better integrate the Western Balkan countries and also considers southeast European countries as possible candidate countries to join the EU.

Now Austria has the chance to present their ideas, lead the discussion for the next six months and show which ideas they want to implement. A first idea of how the Austrian presidency will be like, you can get on Tuesday, 3 July, when Kurz gives his keynote address in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.