Un médiateur honnête : la présidence autrichienne de l'Union européenne
On January 1st, 2006, Austria takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from the United Kingdom. It does so at a very difficult moment of European Union history. The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in the French and Dutch referenda, the still not concluded negotiations on the Financial Framework and the exacerbating differences on the WTO Doha Round put a special strain on this Presidency which cannot linger on routine issues only. Its self-definition as an "honest broker" rendering a service to the European Union is in jeopardy if it lacks clear and viable strategies for overcoming the problems haunting the Union today.
The advances for the European Union that can be expected from the Austrian presidency depend, above all, on the pending consensus on the financial perspectives of the EU. If this consensus is reached within the British Presidency, one can expect Austria to deal expertly and meticulously with the abundance of ensuing detailed problems. If the December European Council fails to find an agreement, viable solutions during the Austrian Presidency seem doubtful. A consensus after such a failure cannot easily be envisaged and would probably require a bolder political position of the Presidency. Otherwise, even many of the smaller goals may well be jeopardised.
On the other hand, Austria does not seem willing to tackle the other big question for the EU for the time being, namely the Constitutional Treaty. While Austria supports the Commission' Plan D and has started a communication initiative for its citizens, it does not aim at developing concrete proposals for the future of the Constitution.
A third salient issue for the Austrian presidency will be the Commission's report on national implementation of the Lisbon strategy. Austria's main focus in this regard lies in research and innovation policies and educational and employment issues.
Austria' own priorities are, above all, closer relations between the EU and the Western Balkans that shall be achieved within several policy fields. Another subject emphasised by Austrian officials is the question of subsidiarity and, above all, the role of national parliaments in European integration.