Austria has taken over the rotating EU presidency from Bulgaria on 1 July in what is believed to be a diplomatic exercise for the Central European country. Whether Vienna’s strategy can actually unfold as planned will actually depend on stability in neighboring Germany and on whether the EU can look towards the parliamentary election next May with positivity and zeal. Therefore, Vienna is concerned particularly about the current coalition tensions in Germany between CDU and CSU.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said that he could live with the result of the European Council meeting last week. He considers it a “change in thinking” and an end to the sweetening of the dire situation. “The now initiated shift towards the Australian model in European migration policy is enormously important to fight illegal migration and smash the business model of the smugglers!” he commented. Mr. Kurz sees his role not so much in overwhelming the bloc with his own proposals but rather as catering to different positions within the Union as a “bridge-builder”.
The main pillars of the Austrian presidency consist of security, competitiveness throughout digitization and stability in Austria’s neighboring countries, mainly in the Balkans. The EU has had to deal with many crises in recent years, which has shaken citizens’ confidence in the European Union as a Union that can secure peace and stability. Austria has therefore chosen the following motto for its presidency: A Europe that Protects. Therefore, Vienna’s efforts will be aimed at boosting the EU, helping it to get closer to its people and re-establishing trust. Austria’s approach is going to be based on enhancing the principle of subsidiarity and a focus on big issues which require a joint solution and take a step back when it comes to smaller issues where member states or regions are in a better position to take decisions.