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On 1 July 2018, the rotating Presidency of the Council of the Union was entrusted to Austria. This is the third time that this country has fulfilled this function and this time its slogan is simple: “A Europe that protects. This will be the last full Presidency before the European elections in May 2019 and the dossiers submitted by the Bulgarian Presidency are fraught with challenges…
As early as July 3rd, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz presented his program to the European Parliament and its three priorities: security and the fight against irregular migration with special attention to the protection of the Union’s external borders and cooperation with third States; the well-being and prosperity of the Union and its citizens; and the development of neighbourhood policies.
On 3 July, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz presented his programme to the European Parliament and its three priorities: security and the fight against irregular migration, with particular attention to the protection of the Union’s external borders and cooperation with third countries; the well-being and prosperity of the Union and its citizens; and the development of neighbourhood policies.
As for the reform of the Common European Asylum System, it does not appear to be very structured as such. On the other hand, faithful to its objective of deterrence – very inspired by the Australian experience – it maintains the idea of platforms outside the EU and insists on the need for better cooperation with third countries.
The establishment of a “stable neighbourhood”
Austria also aims to develop its relations with the EU’s neighbouring countries in order to ensure “a stable neighbourhood”. In Parliament, the Federal Chancellor said that the EU must act actively in its neighbourhood. In his words, “a Europe that protects can only survive with secure external borders and, to do so, the neighbourhood must be stable”.
To do so, the EU will have to become a bridge builder in order to be able to stabilise the situation in the Western Balkans region and allow the integration of the countries of the region into the EU.
A link is therefore made between the first priority of the Austrian Presidency and the last, one of which must go hand in hand with the other. However, we can wonder about the apparent contradiction that there would be in building bridges with neighbouring countries while enclosing European territory between protective walls…
The position adopted by the Austrian Presidency has found some favourable echoes in the Parliament. For example, with the EFDD group represented by Nigel Farage who accuses J. C Juncker of having opened the door to refugees, or with the ENF who wishes to defend “a Europe against mass immigration”. But he is pleased to note that the Austrian position was not unanimously accepted in the Chamber. Several parliamentary groups have warned Kurz Sebastian against an overly secure position based on amalgam and border closures. “I do not believe that we are experiencing a real migration crisis in Europe, it is rather a political crisis on the backs of migrants. Look at the figures before spreading fear among the population and public opinion,” reacted Guy Verhofstadt.
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