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On 8th July 2019, a meeting took place of the Council of the European Union on the “Economy of Wellbeing”, which the Finnish Presidency chose as a key issue of its time in office. This focus shall help to shape Europe’s future and move the people to the centre of policy-making again.

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For the first time in its history, the Commission will have a female President: on 17th July 2019, the European Parliament approved the proposal of the European Council to install Ursula von der Leyen as holder of the EU’s most important position from 1st November 2019. However, with just nine more votes than the required absolute majority, it was a wafer-thin win.

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The first plenary session of the newly elected European Parliament took place in Strasbourg from 2nd to 4th July. AK EUROPA provides an overview of the Austrian MEPs and their range of subjects.

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During its meeting on 20/21 June 2019, the European Council adopted the EU’s new strategic agenda 2019-2024. A paper containing only a few pages, however, to which great importance will be attached over the coming years, as the strategic agenda will determine the overarching priorities for the European political orientation in the next period.

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The first so-called EU top job is already assigned: on 3 July 2019, the Italian Social Democrat David-Maria Sassoli was elected President of the European Parliament for the next 2 ½ years. He achieved the absolute majority of votes cast in the second ballot.

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Under the banner of sustainability, Finland assumed on 1st July 2019 the EU Presidency for the next six months. Apart from strengthening the common values in the EU, Finland’s programme focusses in particular on increasing competitiveness and on social inclusion, on the fight against climate change and on the wellbeing of citizens in the EU.

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The issue of how to shape future politics in Europe was the subject of a joint event organised by the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK EUROPA) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB Europabüro), the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on 19.06.2019. Together with Professor Björn Hacker, political and workforce representatives discussed the issue, as to what a European Union might look like, which would not only react to crises, but would actively operate as problem solver.

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It is an undisputable fact: Brussels not only is the “capital” of the European Union, it also is the centre of lobbyism within the EU. However, especially in this regard something is going in the wrong direction in the European Union. Large corporations and the financial sector, in particular, set the tone in Brussels. This is reflected in the predominant number of business lobbyists, and in some political decisions. It is necessary to limit the impact of large corporations’ lobbyists within the EU in order to improve EU legislation in the interest of the people.

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Frank Ey

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The EU elections will be followed by important decisions, which will significantly shape the future orientation of the European Union. The election results will shift the balance of power in Parliament and have a determining influence on allocating the top jobs in the EU.

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On 5th June 2019, the European Commission published its country-specific recommendations within the framework of the European Semester. The concrete recommendations for Austria paint a mixed picture: on the one hand, it is recommended to increase the cooperation with the social partners. On the other hand, increasing the statutory pension age has been recommended once again.