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EP Plenary session – Presentation of the programme of activities of the Austrian Presidency
EP Plenary session – Presentation of the programme of activities of the Austrian Presidency
BKA/Dragan Tatic

Federal Chancellor Kurz: “Guarantee a Europe without internal borders”

Published 03 Jul 16:34

Keynote address before the European Parliament – presentation of the Austrian Presidency’s priorities

“Austria is assuming the presidency of the Council of the European Union in challenging times. Both within and outside the EU, upheaval and tensions exist to which we must react”, said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on 3 July in his keynote address before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. To mark the start of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July, the Federal Chancellor presented the political priorities for the next 6 months. “The Council presidency is not only a great honour for us, but also a great responsibility”, said Sebastian Kurz. He thanked the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov for his country’s presidency of the Council and congratulated him on the “professional work” carried out by Bulgaria in the past 6 months. “We now want to continue this work and a make a contribution to the future of the EU.”

Austria as bridge builder

The Federal Chancellor reminded his audience that freedom, the rule of law and democracy are not a given: “We are very fortunate to be European. We therefore want to contribute our share to preserving these values and freedoms in the European Union. They are at the very heart of our co-existence.” It is also important, he said, for Europe to remain competitive and “not to be overtaken by other regions.” In line with the principle of subsidiarity, it is also necessary for the EU to focus on the big issues. “We intend to work towards this together with the European Parliament and the Commission”, said Sebastian Kurz. In continuation of the previous positive cooperation, Austria wants to help reach compromises and build bridges between countries and institutions.

“A Europe that protects”

The Austrian motto for the coming 6 months is: “A Europe that protects.” This would include security, securing prosperity as well as stability in the EU’s neighbouring countries. “With regards to security, we will focus on the protection of external borders, the cooperation with third countries and the fight against illegal migration. A Europa without internal borders is only possible if we have effective protection of our external borders”, stressed Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Faced with increased digitalisation and automation, the Federal Chancellor said that the EU must remain competitive in order to maintiain prosperity in Europe. “Large internet corporations must not only be possible in China and the US, but must also find appropriate framework conditions in Europe.”

EU perspective for the Western Balkans

It is important to “also secure peace, security and stability in our neighbouring countries.” In this respect, South Eastern Europe is particularly important to Austria: “The Western Balkans should be part of a united Europe. They have earned their place as a member of the EU. We need an honest perspective for these countries”, said the Federal Chancellor. The Austrian Presidency also plans on increasing cooperation with Africa in order to improve the living conditions there. This requires fair trade conditions, cooperation and European investment.

EU budget and Brexit

In addition to these Austrian Presidency priorities, the European agenda also includes other key issues such as the negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and the Multiannual Financial Framework. “We want to support the Commission on the negotiations on the financial framework, even though we know that these will become even more difficult”, assured Sebastian Kurz. In view of the upcoming large challenges, the Federal Chancellor concluded by asking the MEPs for the “best possible cooperation and support in the interests of Europeans and in the interest of our European Union.”

Cooperation with Parliament and Commission

In a subsequent joint press conference, Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker spoke out in favour of close cooperation on the upcoming issues. The protection of external borders and migration, in particular, will be attributed high priority. This also includes a strategy for Africa, Tajani and Juncker emphasised. Both also agree with the Austrian Federal Chancellor that a Europe without internal borders must be guaranteed. Federal Chancellor Kurz expressed his satisfaction with the results of the EU summit on 28 and 29 June: “For the first time, we were able to bring about a turnaround.” The planned reinforcement of Frontex, clear rules for NGOs, the possibility of creating landing platforms in third countries as well as increased help for Africa are steps in the right direction.”

Official photos of this event will be published on the official Flickr channel.

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