Following a meeting with her Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her conviction "that we will well work together". She added that she will judge the new Austrian government "by its actions".
In terms of bilateral relations, Angela Merkel reported that they had found "little that separates the two sides again today". Their talks had thus focused on challenges at European level. "What is important is that we want to see a Europe that stands together to bring us security, naturally in the fight on terrorism, and that we want to see an economically robust Europe that operates in line with the principle of subsidiarity."
Strengthening the EU’s external borders
Sebastian Kurz and Angela Merkel agreed that they would like to see the external borders of the European Union strengthened, and that illegal migration should be reduced. Regarding the external borders in the Mediterranean, Angela Merkel pointed to the agreement with Turkey. "I believe that this is precisely the way we can protect maritime borders," she said.
But, when efforts to protect the external border prove to be inadequate, said Angela Merkel unequivocally, it cannot be that "some countries simply refuse to be part of the European system of solidarity".
It is essential to ensure the effective protection of the EU’s external borders, if the Schengen system is to work within the EU. Securing the external borders means fighting criminal smugglers and human traffickers, as well as putting in place robust border and coastal management.
Extending cooperation with countries of origin
Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that she aims to step up partnerships with the countries of origin of migrants. "I believe that we cannot leave it up to the smugglers and human traffickers to decide who gets to Europe and who doesn’t," declared the Chancellor. "We must take charge of this through resettlement, cooperation with UNHCR, and agreements with the states in question."
Agreements on EU financial negotiations
Germany and Austria also intend to cooperate closely on the European Union’s next budget. In spring negotiations will begin on the EU’s seven-year financial framework as of 2020. Germany and Austria are both net contributors to the EU budget. Angela Merkel and Sebastian Kurz announced that they would consult and coordinate their approaches in the run-up to these negotiations.
"We are convinced that we can very well focus more on new tasks, such as better protecting the EU’s external borders," said the Chancellor. She also called for greater efficiency in EU spending, and said she will be working to ensure that the core tasks of the European Union "can be performed effectively".
Austria – a bridge builder
Austria will assume the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2018. Sebastian Kurz said that Austria can be an effective bridge builder to the Visegràd Group states, because of its geographical proximity alone.
The Visegràd Group consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The members of the group endeavour to share information and coordinate their political positions. It was founded in 1991 when the Iron Curtain fell.