Austria took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July, and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz presented the country’s programme of activities to the Plenary of the European Parliament on Tuesday, 3 July.
On the occasion, President Juncker welcomed the Austrian presidency in his keynote speech, and said: “I look forward to this Austrian Presidency […] I have known Sebastian Kurz for many years and I know that he is led by European convictions. The same is true for the Austrian Federal Government. […] The government program of the Austrian Federal Government has a clear pro-European tonality.”
“We will have to work together a lot. The Commission’s offer is that we do this in friendship and in mutual understanding, and I am convinced that we will succeed,” President Juncker continued, as he highlighted the Commission would propose strengthening the European border and coast guard in September. He also said that he would like to see the conclusion of the reform of the Common European Asylum System by the end of the year.
President Juncker also pleaded for a consistent focus of the Austrian Presidency on the advancement of the next multiannual financial framework. In this context, he said: “If we finish too late and are not ready on 1 January 2019, we lose thousands of research grants in Europe and we will not be able to support tens of thousands of students and teachers with the Erasmus program.”
The debate with MEPs was followed by a joint press conference by Presidents Juncker and Tajani with Austrian Chancellor Kurz. President Juncker and the College of Commissioners will pay an official visit to Vienna at the end of this week.