Austrian Presidency took over from the UK at a difficult time. There had been some
setbacks in 2005. The failure of the referenda in the Netherlands and in France had
generated a sense of Euro-scepticism, there was a mood which seemed to be a crisis of
confidence, and certainly there needed to be a period of reflection over the
The period of reflection Clearly, a major
objective must be to win back the trust of EU citizens and their confidence in the
European project, by showing them that the EU is capable of delivering concrete results,
showing them how and in which areas the EU can add value, how the EU touches upon their
daily lives. This implied better transparency in policy, improving the visibility of the
Union, enhancing its political clout, and developing better legislation.
Some practical measures emerged in areas such as security, but there were also
unforeseeable events. These would have been a challenge however well prepared the EU had
been the January gas crisis, the cartoon dispute which risked precipitating
conflict between cultures and religions, the unease over Irans nuclear research, the
election victory of Hamas, and avian flu. The EU Presidency is called upon to
orchestrate the views of member states, going through a process of mediation between
diverging views until a common and coherent EU position could be established.
One of the achievements of the period must have been establishing various initiatives to
rebuild confidence in Europe: Europe listens, Sound of
Europe (a debate on European identity), and the Café dEurope.
Other initiatives were the realisation of several practical
proposals. With the movement of goods across Europe, transport regulations have become
important. The new Eurovignette is based on relative levels of pollution, EU law was
adapted to allow cross-financing. Developments in the railway infrastructure were agreed.
There was a meeting of transport ministers to agree principles for greater road safety.
There was also a new agreement on fluorinated greenhouse gases, providing a basis from
which countries could develop their own stricter regulations.
During the first half of the year 2006 the Presidency team handled an extensive agenda,
Issues in the future Enlargement of the EU
||Agreement on financial aid for northern Cyprus
||Western Balkans: Salzburg Declaration
||Turkey and Croatia: opening and closure of 1st chapter in the
margins of the June meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.
agreement on keeping reduced VAT rates for certain labour intensive services
brokering the final agreement on the establishment of the new Human Rights Council
good progress on the development of the Fundamental Rights Agency
Sustainable Development Strategy: revised strategy will be adopted at June EC
continued in right-hand column
|(continued from column 1)
||tensions vis-à-vis Iran
||defining clear guidelines and principles on how to deal with Hamas
||developing a mechanism on financial assistance for the Palestinian
||the European Neighbourhood Policy faced in turn the need to take
positions on Ukraine and Belarus
||continued cooperation with other international strategic partners
and Home Affairs:
||adoption of directive on data retention
||agreement on European Order for Payment
||Vienna Declaration on Security Partnership: dialogue with the
Russian Federation, the United States and Mediterranean countries topics focused on
co-operation in the fields of organised crime, human trafficking, migration, corruption
and drugs, combating terrorism
The EU Spring summit in Lisbon covered another extensive agenda:
||jobs and growth: EU member states committed themselves to create at
least 2 million jobs a year until 2010, and to fight against youth unemployment.
||research and development: EU members decided to set themselves
||encouragement for smaller enterprises the Think Small
First principle should pervade all areas; and the setting up of small and
medium-size enterprises should be facilitated; this was an area where better regulation
needed to be developed
||energy policy: kick-off for a European energy policy, looking at
security of supply (deepening of energy dialogue between countries, whether producer,
transit or consumer; diversification of energy sources), competitiveness, sustainability;
adopting an action plan on energy efficiency was an important step aiming for
energy-saving of some 20% by 2020; while ensuring that member states retained full
sovereignty over their own national energy mix.
Setting the EU Budget for the period 2007-2013 had been an ongoing task:
agreement needed to be reached with the European Parliament and the European Commission. A
new inter-institutional agreement had recently been endorsed by the Council on 15 May, and
was approved by the European Parliament on 17 May). The budget would now include more
money for research and development, progress on Trans-European Networks for transport,
small and medium-size enterprises, and encouragement for student mobility.
The January-June period also included finalising a Services Directive.
Service providers are to be governed by the rules and regulations of the country in which
the service is being provided. The kind of services covered by the directive are: hotels
and restaurants, car hire, construction, advertising, social care. Services that would not
be covered are: broadcasting, postal services, electricity, gas, water, waste, audiovisual
services, legal services, social services, public transport and public health. The
directive set out to ensure that discriminatory and extra barriers for service providers
would not be allowed; any restrictions imposed by a county would be subject to examination
by the Commission. There would be a transition period of 3 years to allow for its
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