Austria is often called “the heart of Europe” – because of its geographical location, situated in the middle of Europe. It’s a small country with only a population around 8.7 million and covering an area of 83,858 square kilometers (32,377 square miles) – less than 1/3 of Colorado with a bigger population (Colorado has 5.6 million inhabitants).

Austrians always understood that networking, teaming up with partners and connecting is a win-win situation for everyone. Throughout history, Austria has been a place for dialogue, known for building bridges between other countries (headquarters of more than 50 international organizations!), enjoying its rich nature and culture and striving to stay on the ball with technology and innovation.

Austria and the European Union

Austria is a federal, parliamentary democracy and has been a member of the European Union since 1995. The European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 square kilometers (1,728,099 square miles) and an estimated population of over 510 million (just as a comparison: the US has 325.7 million). The Council of the European Union is the institution that represents the member states’ governments. Also known informally as the EU Council or the Council of Ministers, it is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies.

The Council of the European Union negotiates and adopts legislative acts in most cases together with the European Parliament through the ordinary legislative procedure, also known as ‘codecision’. The Council is also responsible for coordinating member states’ policies in numerous areas. In addition, the Council defines and implements EU foreign and security policy on the basis of guidelines set by the European Council. The Council also provides the mandate to the European Commission to negotiate on behalf of the EU agreements between the EU and non-EU countries and international organizations. Furthermore, the Council adopts the EU budget together with the Parliament.

The presidency of the Council rotates every 6 months in a set sequence among the 28 EU member states. During this 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council.

Following its presidencies in 1998 and 2006, Austria will assume its third presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1st of July 2018. The Council presidency constitutes a particular European task for Austria, both concerning the organization as well as the political program.

Approximately 300 events will take place in Austria during its presidency; these range from informal ministerial meetings and technical conferences to expert meetings and cultural events. We look forward to welcoming some 48,000 delegates to Austria in the 6 months of our presidency!

The Council meets in 10 different configurations that encompass all of the EU’s policy areas – from ‘economic and financial affairs’ to ‘agriculture and fisheries’ and ‘environment’. Council meetings are held in Brussels or Luxembourg and each of the 28 EU member states sends their minister or state secretary responsible for that policy area. They have the right to commit the government of their country and cast its vote. The Council takes its decisions by a simple majority, qualified majority or unanimous vote, depending on the decision that needs to be taken.

The ‘Trio Presidency’

To ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council, successive presidencies work together in groups of three, called ‘trios’ or the ‘Trio Presidency’. The trio adopts a common program determining the priorities and objectives that will be addressed by the Council over the 18‑month period covered by their presidencies.

The current trio is made up of the presidencies of Austria and its predecessors Estonia (in the second half of 2017) and Bulgaria (in the first half of 2018).

The next 6 months will be a rather exciting time for Austria! Be on the lookout for specific news of what is happening around the council presidency.

More information on the Council of the European Union can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/

More information on the presidency of the Council of the European Union can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/presidency-council-eu/

Content provided by www.eu2018.atCopyright Red. ESiat

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