Austria took over the presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July. We asked Austrian MEPs to share their expectations for the presidency with us.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz will present his country’s programme of activities to MEPs on Tuesday, 3 July. Follow his statement live online from about 10.00 CET.
In line with its slogan “A Europe that protects”, the Austrian presidency will focus on the EU's protective role, especiall when it comes to security, the fight against illegal migration, the digital market and stability in the European neighbourhood.
In addition the Brexit talks and the negotiations on the EU's next long-term budget after 2020 will be important topics of the next six months. Austria sees its role as that of a neutral broker.
Othmar Karas (EPP) said: “The Austrian presidency is an opportunity to show that every demand on the EU is in fact a demand on ourselves. We are Europe! Success is only possible if member states and the European Parliament work together.” He added the presidency was about providing a service to other countries and not about imposing Austrian interests: "Its success depends on whether Austria can help the EU to make progress."
Austria is taking over the presidency at a “crucial moment” with negotiations on Brexit and the EU’s long-term budget, pointed out Evelyn Regner (S&D). She would like to see “a Europe that protects, but not only external borders”: “Security also means being able to live in peace and freedom within Europe, not constantly worrying about whether one can still afford one's own home or how to raise the children. However, I do not see any ambitions in this respect at the moment. In the next six months we need real initiatives on tax justice, digital fundamental rights, youth employment and climate protection."
For Angelika Mlinar (ALDE), the Austrian presidency represents “a very inward-looking, protectionist policy”. “The policy priorities are in line with national rhetoric - security, migration, protection. There is only digitalisation as a non-controversial topic.“ She added the expectations and the pressure on the presidency were relatively high as Austria will have to deal with difficult political issues such as Brexit, the Dublin reform and the discussions on the EU's budget.
Monika Vana and Michel Reimon (Greens/EFA) said: “The Austrian residency is not seeking any relevant progress in the areas of tax evasion, the fight against climate change, social Europe, the budget or Brexit”. Industrial interests are clearly pushed through - a stronger Union is not wanted. Meaningless phrases are being used to stir up fears over the external borders, while an anti-European atmosphere is being created."
Harald Vilimsky (ENF) said: “We need to rethink the entire European asylum and migration policy. We expect the Austrian presidency to provide above all a reasonable solution in the areas of border protection, combating illegal migration and security. We hope that the other EU states will support Austria during the presidency in solving this problem.”
We have asked representatives of all political groups with Austrian MEPs (heads of national delegations) for their views.