21 June 2018
By AVA KHAVARI
BRUSSELS – Austrian Ambassador Nikolaus Marschik spoke to members of the press about the upcoming Austrian Presidency and its primary objectives. The 2018 Austrian Presidency will mark the third of the trio which included Estonia and Bulgaria. During the afternoon discussion, Mr Marschik highlighted the two areas that Austria will be focusing on: the ‘Future of the EU’ and a ‘Europe that Protects’, with latter also serving as the presidency’s motto.
The ‘Future of the EU’ will focus on Brexit in the short-term as negotiations regarding the Withdrawal Agreement are set to be finalized by fall 2018. As described in their programme, “Austria will focus on maintaining the unity of the EU-27, and on laying the foundation for a positive and successful relationship with the UK after its withdrawal.” A long-term goal will be to maintain the emphasis placed on the Enlargement Strategy by the previous presidencies of the trio, in particular Bulgaria. “Austria is a big supporter of the European perspective of the West Balkan six and we would be happy to open larger negotiations…we should be partner number one,” said Marschik.
The second objective, implementing the Austrian motto, ‘A Europe that Protects,’ encompasses a variety of important issues including security and migration, economic prosperity through digitisation and stabilising the European neighbourhood. Marschik emphasized the importance of fortifying FRONTEX while creating a more robust system of information exchange, interoperability, amongst member states to fight illegal migration, organised crime and terrorism.
Mr Marschik praised the Estonian Presidency work towards digitisation and asserted that Austria plans to, “…boost industrial competitiveness by linking it to artificial intelligence and robotics.” Artificial Intelligence (AI), a topic that has been hotly contested amongst policy makers and citizens alike, will likely be at the forefront of Austria’s digitation strategy for the next six months and should be an interesting element of the presidency to follow.
When addressing the legacy that the Austrian Presidency hopes to leave, Marschik simply replied, “We will have to see…” but was quick to make a somewhat verbose analogy for what Austria hopes to accomplish, stating, “We live in this European house where we all love to live… but the roof has holes and its raining inside because of the financial crisis. The door doesn’t close, that would be the refugee and migration crisis.” Marschik continued the quote by referring to Brexit as the flighty tenant, poised to vacate and comparing quarrels over operation cost to the MFF. “What we would like to do is make this house a little bit more robust…we’re a small-medium sized country but we hope that we can make a contribution to this European house,” he finished. Whether Austria will be able to make any long lasting and effective renovations to the European ‘house’ remains to be seen, but what is clear is that there a clear set of well defined and widespread objectives it hopes to achieve in the short, six-month period.