Susann and Kenneth arrived just in time for a very special day at their first Austrian destination: the ski-resort of Schladming. It was the evening before July 1, the date, as anyone who’s into EU politics will tell you, the “rotating” six months presidency of the Council of the European Union changes hands from one Member State to another.
This time, Bulgaria had just completed its very first Council presidency and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had come to Schladming to hand over the task to his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz. For Austria it’s already the third time since they joined the EU, after 1998 and 2006.
While the task of the presidency includes the organisation of all meetings of the Member States’ ministers and leading the negotiations on their behalf with the European Parliament and the European Commission, the presidency is also an opportunity to showcase the country to the rest of the EU – and the EU to the citizens of the country holding it.
To do that, the Austrian government has created a host of events under the title SERVUS EUROPE – including the one in Schladming marking the start of the presidency. Sadly, as they had to travel from Germany to their destination, Susann and Kenneth missed the early parts of festivities, which had included a trip up the Planai mountain on specially designed cable cars, but were there to witness the (possibly) “biggest band in Europe” live on stage: 500 musicians from all over Europe assembled on Schladming’s main square to play the Ode to Joy and other classics.
The next day, our travellers had a very fortunate chance encounter: they met fellow travellers under the banner of #WeAreEurope, or, as it’s known in Germany and Austria: #WirSindEuropa! Their mission is to travel the length and breadth of Germany and engage the citizens to find out how we all “can actively contribute to make Europe the place in which we all want to live”. Together with them, Susann and Kenneth explored the alpine charms of Schladming and discussed Europe.
By the way, one of the priorities of the Austrian Council presidency is to push the EU’s Danube Strategy forward!