The framework for the substantial work of the Council Presidency depends on a number of elements. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, groups of three member states (the “trio presidency”) develop a common work programme for a period of 18 months. This mechanism of coordination over a longer period of time aims at increasing the continuity of the Council’s work. Austria is part of a trio presidency together with Estonia (Presidency of the Council in the second half of 2017) and Bulgaria (Presidency in the first half of 2018). The trio programme, adopted by the Council on 20 June 2017, is based on the European Council’s “Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change” of June 2014. Further guiding documents are the Commission’s annual work programme as well as the Joint Declaration of the Institutions on the EU’s legislative priorities until the elections to the European Parliament in 2019, which was adopted in December 2017.
The trio programme comprises five thematic areas:
- A Union for jobs, growth and competitiveness
- А Union that empowers and protects all its citizens
- Towards an energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy
- A Union of freedom, security and justice
- The Union as a strong global actor
The most important points of the trio programme are: implementation of the European Agenda on Security and the European Agenda on Migration; fight against radicalisation and violent extremism; implementation of the EU Global Strategy; enlargement as regards the Western Balkans; cooperation with partners in the Mediterranean region in order to tackle root causes of flight and irregular migration; continuation and finalisation of Digital Single Market proposals; efficient taxation, fight against tax fraud; support for young people (education and training); further implementation of the United Nations “Agenda 2030” for sustainable development; investment in growth and jobs, including research and innovation; fight against poverty and social exclusion; continuation of the work on a sustainable, resilient and effective energy union; implementation of the Paris climate agreement and the EU’s 2030 targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Austrian Presidency of the Council in the second half of 2018 will have to work on a large number of complex and challenging dossiers, e.g. internal and external security, protection of external borders, reform of the Common European Asylum System, Digital Single Market, Energy Union, budget 2019, Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020, EU enlargement, European neighbourhood and conclusion of the negotiations regarding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (Brexit). Austria’s national programme will be available in due time before the start of the Council Presidency.
Another important aspect for the work of the Austrian Council Presidency concerns the elections to the European Parliament in spring 2019. As the Parliament’s legislative period is coming to a close, it will be crucial to prepare the finalisation or reach agreements on as many open legislative proposals as possible. Thus, one of the main tasks of the Austrian Council Presidency will be to reach common positions of the Council on individual proposals. These common Council positions are a precondition for negotiations with the European Parliament. These negotiations, also known as “trilogues”, are usually very intensive and present a particular challenge for the Presidency.
After Austria, the next trio presidency will take over: Romania (first half of 2019), Finland (second half of 2019) and Croatia (first half of 2020).