The priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers are being outlined to parliamentary committees by ministers, in a series of meetings.
Austria is holding the Presidency of the Council until the end of 2018. Hearings take place between 9 and 12 July.
Legal affairs: security, copyright, insolvency, subsidiarity and a connected digital single market
Enhanced police cross-border cooperation and evidence exchange, ongoing negotiations on profitable businesses and insolvency rules, as well as advancing with the update of copyright rules are key priorities of the Presidency, said Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr Josef Moser, on Monday.
MEPs also called on the Presidency to work on female representation on boards, open and efficient EU governance, e-privacy, subsidiarity principles and whistle-blower protection.
Agriculture and rural development: CAP reform, international trade, veterinary medicines
Post-2020 EU farm policy reform and outlawing unfair trading practices in the food supply chain are among top Presidency priorities, Women, Families and Youth Minister Juliane Bogner-Strauss told MEPs on Monday. The Presidency, she added, will also focus on ongoing trade talks with non-EU countries, the bio-economy strategy, proteins’ supply in the EU as well as veterinary medicines and medicated feed laws.
MEPs insisted that the future EU farm policy should remain truly common, well-funded and made simpler and fairer. Many members also called for sensitive EU agricultural sectors to be protected during international trade talks.
Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs: security, asylum, Poland, e-privacy
Reinforcing security to make sure EU citizens feel protected will be a key priority, said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl on Tuesday. He also welcomed the “paradigm shift” in the EU migration and asylum policy, resulting from the latest European Council.
MEPs demanded clarification on the plans to establish “regional disembarkation platforms” outside of the EU, raising concerns regarding EU values and respect of international conventions. They also reminded the Minister that the reform of the Common European Asylum System should be treated as a package, urging him to work towards an agreement on the review of the Dublin Regulation.
Asked about the Article 7 procedure against Poland, Justice Minister Josef Moser said, also on Tuesday, that the issue will be discussed in the next Justice and Home Affairs Council, hinting that several member states are in favour of pursuing dialogue with Warsaw. Moser also replied to questions on the new e-privacy legislation, admitting there are “conflicting interests” in the Council, with some countries thinking the proposal “is not mature”.
International Trade: Russia, US tariffs, trade negotiations
MEPs questioned Digital and Economic Affairs Minister Margarete Schramböck on Tuesday about the Presidency’s position on continued application of sanctions against Russia, the planned response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminium products as well as the possible tariffs on cars and car parts.
When asked about long-standing trade talks with Mercosur countries which still continue after 20 years, Minister Schramböck said the Presidency supports ongoing trade agreements. MEPs finally called for progress to be achieved also on negotiations on foreign direct investment screening and the export of civilian and military dual use products.
Women’s Rights and Gender Equality: raising awareness among young Europeans
On Tuesday, Juliane Bogner-Strauβ, Federal Minister within the Chancellery for Women, Families and Youth, told Women’s Rights MEPs that gender equality was at the top of Presidency’s priorities. A conference on the future of gender equality will be held in Vienna in October, with a focus on youth, as well as smaller events in schools throughout Europe. Among the other priorities of the Austrian Presidency: the opportunities of digitalisation for young girls and boys, gender mainstreaming, work-life balance and the implementation of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women.
MEPs welcomed the organisation of this conference on gender equality and urged Austria to encourage the 10 member states that still have not done so to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
Foreign Affairs: Western Balkans
Increasing the stability in the European neighbourhood, driving the EU perspective for South Eastern European states and strengthening EU-Asia relations are amongst Presidency’s priorities, Integration and Foreign Affairs Minister Karin Kneissl, told the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs welcomed the minister’s focus on the Western Balkans, while several of them urged him not to weaken the EU’s focus on the Eastern Partnership, war in Eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive policy. Commenting on migration, Ms Kneissl stressed that it needs to be addressed by a different set of tools, as the current ones were design to deal with hundreds, not thousands, of refugees.