Presidency of the Council of the European Union

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Not to be confused with President of the European Council.
Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Incumbent
 Italy
Term length Six months
Website italia2014.eu
European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government
of the European Union

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is responsible for the functioning of the Council of the European Union, the upper house of the EU legislature. It rotates among the member states of the EU every six months. The presidency is not an individual, but rather the position is held by a national government. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the President of the European Union. The presidency's function is to chair meetings of the Council, determine its agendas, set a work programme and facilitate dialogue both at Council meetings and with other EU institutions. The current presidency (as of July 2014) is held by Italy.

Three successive presidencies, known as presidency trios, the current trio (2014–15) is made up of Italy (incumbent), Latvia (Jan-Jun 2015) and Luxembourg (Jul-Dec 2015).

History[edit]

When the Council was established, its work was minimal and the presidency rotated between each of the then six members every six months. However as the work load of the Council grew and the membership increased, the lack of coordination between each successive six-month presidency hindered the development of long-term priorities for the EU.

In order to rectify the lack of coordination, the idea of trio presidencies was put forward where groups of three successive presidencies cooperated on a common political program. This was implemented in 2007 and formally laid down in the EU treaties in 2009 by the Treaty of Lisbon.

Until 2009, the Presidency had assumed political responsibility in all areas of European integration and it played a vital role in brokering high level political decisions.

The Treaty of Lisbon reduced the importance of the Presidency, significantly by officially separating the European Council from the Council of the European Union. Simultaneously it split the foreign affairs Council configuration from the General Affairs configuration and created the position of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Functioning[edit]

The Council meets in various formations where its composition depends on the topic discussed. For example, the Agriculture Council is composed of the national ministers responsible for Agriculture.[1]

The primary responsibility of the Presidency is to organise and chair all meetings of the Council, apart from the Foreign Affairs Council which is chaired by the High Representative. So, for instance, the Minister of Agriculture for the state holding the presidency chairs the Agriculture council. This role includes working out compromises capable of resolving difficulties.

Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union provides:

The Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, shall be held by Member State representatives in the Council on the basis of equal rotation, in accordance with the conditions established in accordance with Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Each three successive presidencies cooperate on a "triple-shared presidency" work together over an 18-month period to accomplish a common agenda by the current president simply continuing the work of the previous "lead-president" after the end of his/her term. This ensures more consistency in comparison to a usual single six-month presidency and each three includes a new member state. This allows new member states to hold the presidency sooner and helps old member states pass their experience to the new members.

The role of the rotating Council Presidency includes:

  • agenda-setting powers: in its 6-month programme, it decides on the order to discuss propositions, after they have been submitted by the Commission in its agenda monopoly powers;
  • brokering inter-institutional compromise: trialogues between Commission, Parliament and Council are held to reach early consensus in the codecision legislative procedure; the Presidency takes part to the Conciliation Committee between Parliament and Council in the 3rd stage of the codecision legislative procedure;
  • coordinating national policies and brokering compromise between member states in the Council (“confessional system”)
  • management and administration of the Council, external and internal representation;

Holding the rotating Council Presidency includes both advantages and disadvantages for member states; The opportunities include:

  1. member states have the possibility to show their negotiating skills, as “honest brokers”, thus gaining influence and prestige;
  2. member states gain a privileged access to information: at the end of their term, they know member states' preferences better than anyone else
  3. the Council programme may enable member states to focus Council discussion on issues of particular national/regional interest (e.g.: Finland and the Northern Dimension initiative)

The burdens include:

  1. lack of administrative capacities and experience, especially for small and new member states; the concept of trio/troika has been introduced to enable member states to share experiences and ensure coherence on an 18-months base;
  2. expenses in time and money, needed to support the administrative machine;
  3. not being able to push through their own interests, as the role of Council Presidency is seen as an impartial instance; member states trying to push for initiatives of their own national interest are likely to see them failing in the medium run (e.g. the French 2008 Presidency and the Union for the Mediterranean project), as they need consensus and do not have enough time to reach it. This element is particularly substantial: holding the presidency may be, on balance, a disadvantage for member states .

The rotating presidency is probably not needed any more, with the 2009 reforms by the Treaty of Lisbon, but reforming it has proved incredibly difficult: it still enables little states to stand up and try to push forward vital policies; it represents a sharing of administrative burdens, enabling the coordination of policies, the stability of the Council agenda (through the troika) and providing learning and experience for member states' public administrations.

List of rotations[edit]

Period Trio Holder Head of government [note 1] Website
1958 Jan–Jun    Belgium Achille Van Acker
Gaston Eyskens (since 26 June)
 
Jul–Dec  West Germany Konrad Adenauer
1959 Jan–Jun  France Charles de Gaulle*
Jul–Dec  Italy Antonio Segni
1960 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Jan de Quay
1961 Jan–Jun  Belgium Gaston Eyskens
Théo Lefèvre (since 25 April)
Jul–Dec  West Germany Konrad Adenauer
1962 Jan–Jun  France Charles de Gaulle*
Jul–Dec  Italy Amintore Fanfani
1963 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Jan de Quay
Victor Marijnen (since 24 July)
1964 Jan–Jun  Belgium Théo Lefèvre
Jul–Dec  West Germany Ludwig Erhard
1965 Jan–Jun  France Charles de Gaulle*
Jul–Dec  Italy Aldo Moro
1966 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Jo Cals
Jelle Zijlstra (since 22 November)
1967 Jan–Jun  Belgium Paul Vanden Boeynants
Jul–Dec  West Germany Kurt Georg Kiesinger
1968 Jan–Jun  France Charles de Gaulle*
Jul–Dec  Italy Giovanni Leone
Mariano Rumor

(since 12 December)

1969 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Piet de Jong
1970 Jan–Jun  Belgium Gaston Eyskens
Jul–Dec  West Germany Willy Brandt
1971 Jan–Jun  France Georges Pompidou*
Jul–Dec  Italy Emilio Colombo
1972 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Barend Biesheuvel
1973 Jan–Jun  Belgium Gaston Eyskens
Edmond Leburton
(since 26 January)
Jul–Dec  Denmark Anker Jørgensen
Poul Hartling (since 19 December)
1974 Jan–Jun  West Germany Willy Brandt
Walter Scheel (since 7 May)
Helmut Schmidt (since 16 May)
Jul–Dec  France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing*
1975 Jan–Jun  Ireland Liam Cosgrave
Jul–Dec  Italy Aldo Moro
1976 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Gaston Thorn
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Joop den Uyl
1977 Jan–Jun  United Kingdom James Callaghan
Jul–Dec  Belgium Leo Tindemans
1978 Jan–Jun  Denmark Anker Jørgensen
Jul–Dec  West Germany Helmut Schmidt
1979 Jan–Jun  France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing*
Jul–Dec  Ireland Jack Lynch
Charles Haughey
(since 11 December)
1980 Jan–Jun  Italy Francesco Cossiga
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg Pierre Werner
1981 Jan–Jun  Netherlands Dries van Agt
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher
1982 Jan–Jun  Belgium Wilfried Martens
Jul–Dec  Denmark Anker Jørgensen
Poul Schlüter

(since 10 September)

1983 Jan–Jun  West Germany Helmut Kohl
Jul–Dec  Greece Andreas Papandreou
1984 Jan–Jun  France François Mitterrand*
Jul–Dec  Ireland Garret FitzGerald
1985 Jan–Jun  Italy Bettino Craxi
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg Jacques Santer
1986 Jan–Jun  Netherlands Ruud Lubbers
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher
1987 Jan–Jun  Belgium Wilfried Martens
Jul–Dec  Denmark Poul Schlüter
1988 Jan–Jun  West Germany Helmut Kohl
Jul–Dec  Greece Andreas Papandreou
1989 Jan–Jun  Spain Felipe González
Jul–Dec  France François Mitterrand*
1990 Jan–Jun  Ireland Charles Haughey
Jul–Dec  Italy Giulio Andreotti
1991 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Jacques Santer
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Ruud Lubbers
1992 Jan–Jun  Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom John Major
1993 Jan–Jun  Denmark Poul Schlüter
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
(since 25 January)
Jul–Dec  Belgium Jean-Luc Dehaene
1994 Jan–Jun  Greece Andreas Papandreou
Jul–Dec  Germany Helmut Kohl
1995 Jan–Jun  France François Mitterrand*
Jacques Chirac* (since 17 May)
Jul–Dec  Spain Felipe González
1996 Jan–Jun  Italy Lamberto Dini
Romano Prodi (since 17 May)
Jul–Dec  Ireland John Bruton
1997 Jan–Jun  Netherlands Wim Kok
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker
1998 Jan–Jun  United Kingdom Tony Blair presid.fco.gov.uk
Jul–Dec  Austria Viktor Klima presidency.gv.at
1999 Jan–Jun  Germany Gerhard Schröder
Jul–Dec  Finland Paavo Lipponen presidency.finland.fi
2000 Jan–Jun  Portugal António Guterres
Jul–Dec  France Jacques Chirac*
2001 Jan–Jun  Sweden Göran Persson eu2001.se
Jul–Dec  Belgium Guy Verhofstadt eu2001.be
2002 Jan–Jun  Spain José María Aznar ue2002.es
Jul–Dec  Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen eu2002.dk
2003 Jan–Jun  Greece Costas Simitis eu2003.gr
Jul–Dec  Italy Silvio Berlusconi ueitalia2003.it
2004 Jan–Jun  Ireland Bertie Ahern eu2004.ie
Jul–Dec  Netherlands Jan Peter Balkenende eu2004.nl
2005 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker eu2005.lu
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom Tony Blair eu2005.gov.uk
2006 Jan–Jun  Austria Wolfgang Schüssel eu2006.at
Jul–Dec  Finland[note 2] Matti Vanhanen eu2006.fi
2007 Jan–Jun T1  Germany Angela Merkel eu2007.de
Jul–Dec  Portugal José Sócrates eu2007.pt
2008 Jan–Jun  Slovenia Janez Janša eu2008.si
Jul–Dec T2  France Nicolas Sarkozy* ue2008.fr
2009 Jan–Jun  Czech Republic Mirek Topolánek
Jan Fischer (since 8 May)
eu2009.cz
Jul–Dec  Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt se2009.eu
2010 Jan–Jun T3  Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero eu2010.es
eutrio.es
Jul–Dec  Belgium Yves Leterme eutrio.be
2011 Jan–Jun  Hungary Viktor Orbán eu2011.hu
Jul–Dec T4  Poland Donald Tusk pl2011.eu
2012 Jan–Jun  Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt eu2012.dk
Jul–Dec  Cyprus Demetris Christofias* cy2012.eu
2013 Jan–Jun T5  Ireland Enda Kenny eu2013.ie
Jul–Dec  Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius eu2013.lt
2014 Jan–Jun  Greece Antonis Samaras gr2014.eu
Jul–Dec T6  Italy Matteo Renzi italia2014.eu
2015 Jan–Jun  Latvia TBD eu2015.lv
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg TBD TBD
2016 Jan–Jun T7  Netherlands TBD TBD
Jul–Dec  Slovakia TBD TBD
2017 Jan–Jun  Malta TBD TBD
Jul–Dec T8  United Kingdom TBD TBD
2018 Jan–Jun  Estonia TBD TBD
Jul–Dec  Bulgaria TBD TBD
2019 Jan–Jun T9  Austria TBD TBD
Jul–Dec  Romania TBD TBD
2020 Jan–Jun  Finland TBD TBD

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Asterisk denotes Head of State
  2. ^ Germany was due to succeed Austria in 2006 but stepped aside as general elections were scheduled for that period. Finland, as next in line, took Germany's place. In actuality, the German elections took place in 2005 due to a loss of confidence vote, but the re-arrangement remained.

References[edit]

External links[edit]