Written by Lucienne Attard (The Directorate-General for the Presidency),
Austria has a federal system of government with the Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, as head of government, a Vice-Chancellor and federal ministers. Chancellor Kurz has been in office since December 2017. The President and the government together form the executive branch in Austrian politics. The current government is a coalition government composed of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
Austria has a bicameral parliamentary legislature consisting of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). The former currently has 183 members elected through proportional representation in a general election, while the Bundesrat has 61 members elected indirectly through provincial diets.
Political priorities of the Austrian Presidency
This note looks at the Austrian Presidency’s priorities, with those dossiers which figure in the Joint Declaration agreed to by the three institutions as priorities for 2018 until May 2019 marked with an asterisk (*).
A EUROPE THAT PROTECTS is the motto Austria has chosen for its Presidency. Austria considers that there have been several crises in recent years that have given rise to mistrust in the EU amongst European citizens. This mistrust needs to be addressed.
To this end, the Austrian Presidency has announced three main priorities for its term in office: security, competitiveness and stability. On security, it intends to focus on the fight against illegal migration, by securing Europe’s external borders, and on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. On competitiveness, it will work on matters related to the digital single market, specifically digitalisation. On stability, it has announced its intention to work towards EU accession of the Western Balkan countries.
A number of ongoing complex and challenging dossiers will also feature prominently during the second half of 2018, such as Brexit, the interinstitutional negotiations of a new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027and the reform of the EU.
Subsidiarity is another key element for the Austrian Presidency. The idea is that the scope of action of the EU would be re-defined via a ‘Subsidiarity Pact’, whereby tasks, which are better handled at Member State level, would be carried out at this level, thus taking decisions closer to the citizens. In the light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, this proposal may well find support amongst some Member States. The Austrian Presidency plans to hold a high-level conference in Bregenz, Austria on 15-16 November 2018, the conclusions of which would serve as substantial input to the European Council meeting in December 2018.
As part of the six-month roadmap, Austria will host several key events; most significant amongst these is the special summit on security, in Salzburg on 20 September 2018, and the EU-Asia conference on 23 and 24 November 2018. On the special summit on security, the Austrian Presidency position is that instead of fighting over the distribution of refugees, the EU must implement and improve external border protection. While Member States that are particularly under stress due to migratory flows should receive more support, it is also necessary to strengthen the mandate of Frontex as a way of combating illegal migration.
Read the full briefing here: Priority Dossiers under the Austrian EU Council Presidency.
The Directorate-General for the Presidency (DG Presidency) plays a key role throughout each parliamentary procedure, from its launch until its conclusion through the adoption of an EP resolution or legislative act, in particular in ensuring the smooth running of the plenary sessions. The staff of the DG play a key coordination role across the different services of the Parliament, and support Members in a wide range of activities. The Interinstitutional Relations Unit within DG Presidency, amongst other tasks, prepares a broad range documents concerned with strategic programming, such as on activities of the Commission and the Council.