19th July 2018
On 1 July 2018, Austria assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, for the third time since it accession in 1995. At a time when the European Union is facing challenging dossiers in the areas of migration, trade, security, the EU budget, and the on-going Brexit negotiations, this is an important moment for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his EPP-affiliated Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). The ÖVP is one of the two dominant parties of Austrian politics that have governed the country in the post-war period, and is currently in coalition with the far-right and often euro-critical Freedom Party of Austria. The Chancellor faces challenges in separating his Government’s strongly stated positions in relation to many of the EU’s ongoing challenges, from its role as a broker in negotiations between EU Member States over the coming six months. However, given the significant agenda-setting and agenda-structuring powers afforded to the Council Presidency, Member States may instinctively view Austria as an ally or an opponent based on whatever side of these contentious issues they may be on.