The EU adopts between 200 and 250 legislative acts every year. It develops the Economic and Monetary Union further, gives its opinion on hot spots such as Ukraine in 2014, it negotiates a free-trade agreement with the USA and it specifies, among other things, the criteria to be complied with in organic farming. The EU is much like a harmonious chorus made up of 28 individual voices, and one of them is the voice of Austria. The Members of the European Parliament and the representatives of the individual states vote on the resolutions of the EU, and Austrian ministers therefore meet regularly with their counterparts from other European countries to take important decisions. By this means, Austria has a say and can determine what happens in the EU. There are some ten different ministerial council configurations that hold about 60 meetings every year. While the Foreign Affairs Council, for example, where Austria is represented by its foreign minister, normally meets monthly, there are daily meetings in Brussels where proposals are drafted, political positions fine-tuned and Ministerial Councils prepared.
Proposals are discussed
Some 260 Council Working Parties dealing with issues such as trade, budget, foreign relations of the EU, transport, fishery, the fight against terrorism, etc. meet about 4,000 times a year. Every day there are meetings of Council Working Parties or specialised bodies with all 28 member states attending. All the dates and meetings are listed in the Calendar of Meetings organised by the Office of the Council. In these meetings, representatives make statements, give their opinions, negotiate details of proposals made by the European Commission, and prepare ministerial meetings. Making Austria's voice heard in the daily political work of the EU is the task of a team of 30 persons directed by Ambassador Mag. Walter Grahammer. They work on the order of the Austrian Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs for the Permanent Representation of Austria at the EU in Brussels. If the member states discuss budget spending in a budget committee meeting – a representative of the Permanent Representation of Austria will be present. If the member states deliberate about political crises in Europe and Europe's position on them – a representative of the Permanent Representation of Austria will be present. ... and so on.
Ministerial meetings are prepared
When the numerous Council Working Parties have held their meetings, deliberations and negotiations, they pass the topics on to a higher-level body: the Committee of Permanent Representatives. This is the most important body when it comes to preparing meetings of ministers. The head of the Austrian mission (or his deputy) and his 27 colleagues meet weekly. There are, in fact, two committees: the Committee of Permanent Representatives I (COREPER I) and the Committee of Permanent Representatives II (COREPER II). These two bodies deal with all issues, proposed legislation, common positions etc. that are then referred to the foreign ministers, ministers of justice, ministers of the interior, finance ministers, ministers of the environment, agricultural and energy ministers for adoption of the final decision. So by the time the ministers meet, the majority of issues will already have been negotiated, fine-tuned and agreed upon by the member states. Based on this sound preparation work, the final disputed, often highly political questions can then be efficiently deliberated and (in most cases) swift decisions can be taken.