Rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The rotating Presidency of the Council is held for a half a year always by one member state, on a rotating basis. More precisely, the rotating Presidency is linked to the Council of the European Union (Council), which is the organ of the EU representing the interests of the member states. The state holding the Presidency chairs the sessions of the Council, decides on the convocation of the sessions, on the agenda and on procedural questions.
What kind of tasks does the member state holding the rotating Presidency have?
The Presidency is a great responsibility for every member state: it is a great challenge and a great opportunity at the same time. The member state holding the rotating Presidency directs the EU for a half a year, and ensures the continuity and the flexibility of its operation.
With the entry in force of the Lisbon Treaty, the member states elect a permanent President to head the European Council for two and a half years. The close cooperation of the permanent President and the rotating Presidency provides the governance of the EU.
The rotating Presidency of the European Union is held for a half a year always by one member state, on a rotating basis. The Presidency plays a leading role in the organisation of the work of the Council of the European Union (in short: Council). The state assuming the Presidency gives the persons chairing the Council, the COREPER preparing the Council sessions (based on the sessions of the permanent representatives of the member states delegated to the EU), as well as the chairs of the specialised committees and the working groups, and, acting in this capacity, decides on the convocation of the sessions, on the agenda and on procedural questions.
The Presidency plays a decisive role in selecting what issues get into the forefront of the interest of the EU during its governance, and has influence on the way that the different political and economic challenges are treated. Though a part of the priorities arising during the course of the half year are “inherited”, the rotating President – relying on the natural foreign policy priorities of the country and on the circle of issues traditionally important for the country – may give new impetus to the cooperation at EU level in certain selected domains. Facilitating the conclusion of the appropriate compromises between the 27 member states and finalising the compromises adequate for all members is an important task of the Presidency.
What does Trio Presidency mean?
Though trio Presidency was “institutionalised” only with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the member states have stipulated the achievement of the 18 month presidency programme already at the time of the amendment of the rules of procedure of theCouncil in 2006, on the basis of which three member states holding the Presidency in three successive periods cooperate closely in a kind of a “trio”. They may share their experiences and help each other in their preparations, cooperate closely in performing their tasks, with special regard to the issues extending through several terms, in which they may harmonise their positions. Thus they may ensure greater consistency and continuity in the successive Presidency periods. To ensure greater fluency, they harmonise their positions not only within trios but also between Trio Presidencies. Besides preparing the joint programme, the member states continue to prepare their own half year programmes as well.
Council Decision 2007/5/EC determining the order in which the office of President of the Council shall be held
What kind of changes did the Lisbon Treaty bring in performing the tasks of the rotating Presidency?
One of the most important institutional changes made on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty was the granting of the status of a formal institution to the European Council, and the establishment of the office of a permanent President, elected by the European Council for two and a half years. The permanent President convokes and chairs the sessions of the European Council; takes care of ensuring the preparation and the continuity of the work of the European Council, in cooperation with the President of the Commission and on the basis of the work in the General Affairs Council. The President of the European Council makes efforts to create cohesion and consensus; after the sessions of the European Council, hands in a report on these to the European Parliament; and takes care of the external representation of the EU in issues related to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, without prejudice to the scope of authority of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. However, in the course of the preparation of the sessions of the European Council (the date and time of the session, the agenda, the conclusions, the decisions), the permanent President shall cooperate closely with the rotating Presidency, as the sessions of the European Council continue to be prepared by the General Affairs Council, guided by the rotating Presidency.
The President of the European Council thus takes over all the tasks which have been performed until now by the Prime Minister of the rotating Presidency related to the operation of the European Council.
On the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, the former General Affairs and External Relations Council is divided into two independent formations: the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council.
The General Affairs Council is a horizontal, coordinating formation, which has the task of fully preparing the sessions of the European Council, and of monitoring the performance of the tasks determined by the European Council. It will discuss the issues relevant from the point of view of the development and the future of the EU, thus e.g. the themes of the financial perspective, enlargement, and institutional questions; however, it will not assume the tasks of the sectoral and specialised ministerial council formations. The Foreign Affairs Council will be responsible for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy, for development cooperation, humanitarian aid, as well as for the common trade policy.
It continues to be the member state holding the rotating Presidency that organises, directs and chairs the sessions of the council formations, the Committee of Permanent Representatives accredited to the EU (COREPER), and the council working groups. The Foreign Affairs Council, led by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (also being one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission), is an exception. This means that in the domain of foreign and security policy and in the security and defence policy the member state holding the rotating Presidency does not dispose of the same governing role as previously. The High Representative, firstly, manages the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU and the European Security and Defence Policy; secondly, harmonises the EU’s external activity; thirdly, maintains a dialogue in the name of the EU with third parties, and represents the position of the EU in international organisations and at international conferences.
The Lisbon Treaty increases considerably the legislative powers of the European Parliament. In the course of the (ordinary, codecision) legislative procedure, the Council’s position is represented by the rotating Presidency, which attempts to establish a compromise with the European Parliament and the Commission. Furthermore, it is the task of the rotating President to have the compromise accepted in the Council.