Austria to take over EU presidency

Austria takes over the presidency of the European Union on Sunday, just six years after the alpine nation was slapped with EU sanctions for bringing the rightist Freedom Party into its coalition government.

Although support has greatly waned for the Freedom Party, which was accused at the time of espousing anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant sentiment, the rest of Europe will be watching Austria’s six-month EU leadership with interest and caution.

In October, the conservative Austrian government tried unsuccessfully to block the EU from formally opening membership talks with mostly Muslim Turkey.

It also has staked out a decidedly “Euro-sceptic” position on further enlarging the 25-nation bloc.

Austria says its main focus will be trying to determine what European citizens want out of the EU.

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