Austria has defined the priorities that it will promote during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. “Europe that protects” is the motto that Vienna has chosen for its third period as a rotating president of the Council.

The main outlined priorities are:

Security and combating illegal migration – According to the Austrian Government, the mechanism for redistribution of refugees is not functioning, so alternatives should be sought. Austria wants to end the discussion on redistribution and focusing on the protection of the EU’s external borders.

Due to the dangers of uncontrolled migration flows to Europe, the reform of the Common European Asylum System and the strengthening of the European Border and Coast Agency Frontex will be discussed. The aim is to work closely with third countries to ensure an effective return policy and to provide assistance to those in need before entering the EU.

Further emphasis on the federal Chancellor is subsidiarity within the Union. A “more subsidiary” Europe must be less bureaucratic, go away from over-regulation and focus on important themes.

The Austrian presidency will focus on completing the negotiations on “Brexit” and negotiations on the future Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

Austria will focus on promoting strong relations between the EU and its neighbours, which form the so-called immediate neighbourhood, ensuring peace, security and stability for European citizens. It will therefore also focus on the development of the Western Balkans, which will also be a credible partner for economic and security policies during the migration crisis.

The government of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, which is a coalition with the right-wing Party of Freedom, has a firm stance on the issue of migration, calling for a more restrictive policy from the EU, including strengthening the protection of the Union’s external borders.

Another major challenge for Vienna is the progress in negotiations on the EU’s long-term budget for the period from 2021 to 2027. For the first time, funds for a common EU defence policy will be allocated to finance military capacities and infrastructure. Due to its central position in Europe and its history, Austria wants greater integration of its neighbours from the Western Balkans into the Union. Vienna intends to submit a hand to countries such as Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia in their move towards full membership in the EU.

The Austrian Presidency starts from 1 July and will continue until 31 December 2018.