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 Full text 
Tuesday, 15 January 2019 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

3. Review of the Austrian Council Presidency (debate)
Video of the speeches

  Jan Zahradil, on behalf of the ECR Group . – Mr President, generally speaking, the Austrian Presidency was well-crafted, well-organised and efficient – that’s because Austria is of course a well—functioning country – so you covered a lot of issues. Let me do just a little cherry picking to pick up just a few of them. I will start of course with migration and security.

I have to tell you that it was really refreshing to see a slightly different point of view from the Presidency and the Chancellery than we have heard many times before. You indicated very clearly what many other politicians were hesitant to say, namely that Europe is neither ready nor willing to accept continuous waves of migrants, as it would have an impact on both our security and the internal coherence of our societies. You also came forward with proposals and solutions. For instance, we’ve seen improvements of the Schengen Borders Code or the Entry—Exit System, which will both help to manage migration and help us to tackle illegal migration.

I can assure you your message was heard and appreciated, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe and in the V4 countries. Again it was proven how important it is to find a consensus between the Member States instead of arbitrary solutions, like the very unfortunate relocation scheme pursued by the Commission, which unfortunately caused one of the most serious clashes yet between East and West and between new and old EU Member States. I hope that is definitely off the table.

You also made it one of your priorities to ensure the prosperity and competitiveness of the European economy, especially through digitalisation and innovation, and you were right. While we have a well—established and functioning start-up culture, the biggest players often come from outside the European Union. We need to do more for start-ups and for small and medium-sized enterprises. In this respect, we need to remove trade barriers.

I would also like to congratulate you on the swift ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with Japan, which happened during your Presidency. This creates the world’s largest free trade area, covering nearly 30% of global GDP. I hope that other similar treaties still in the pipeline – most notably with Singapore and Vietnam – will follow soon.

Last but not least, the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations continued under your Presidency. They are not over yet, and that is good news, because this Parliament and this Commission are finishing their mandate, and therefore they should not decide on behalf of the Member States or Commissioners of the next term.

External relations were also a big burden for you. I will not go further into that, but I will end by stating that the Austrian Presidency was pragmatic, non-ideological and not a Presidency of big slogans, but rather of achievable results. This is good news. It was good to see common sense once again prevailing in most of your endeavours, because common sense is exactly what my own group is trying to pursue in this Parliament.

Last updated: 30 January 2019Legal notice