President of the European Union

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Three former European presidents: of the European Parliament (Jerzy Buzek), of the European Commission (José Barroso), and of the European Council (Herman van Rompuy), during a press conference in the Berlaymont in November 2011

The official title President of the European Union (or President of Europe) does not exist, but there are a number of presidents of European Union institutions, including:

Alongside these the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers or simply "the Council") containing 28 national ministers, one of each nation, rotates its presidency by country. This presidency is held by a country not person; meetings are chaired by the minister from the country holding the presidency (depending on the topic, or "configuration"), except for the Foreign Affairs Council (one so-called "configuration" of the Council of the EU), which is usually chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.[1] The Presidency of the Council of the European Union has been held by Estonia (and by extension Prime Minister Jüri Ratas) since 1 July 2017.

It must be noted that there is no President of the European Union as a whole: each of the European institutions has its own President. Each one is chosen by the members of the institution concerned[citation needed], except the Council of the European Union, whose Presidency rotates automatically among Member States, and the Commission, whose President is elected by the European Parliament. In protocol (ceremonial) terms, it is the President of the Parliament who comes first, as it is the only directly elected institution and is listed first in the treaties.[citation needed]

However, on the world stage, the principal representative of the EU is considered to be the President of the European Council,[2] but the President of the European Commission, as head of the executive branch of the European Union, takes part in the G7 and other international summits as well.[1]

In media[edit]

All four offices have been described as the President of Europe, however, none can be seen to be analogous to the President of the United States. Imperfect comparisons with other political system have attempted to explain the complex nature of the European institutions. As each institution has its own leader, it has been suggested that the terms "Speaker" of the European Parliament, "Governor" of the European Central Bank, "Chairman" of the Council of the European Union, "President" of the European Council and "Prime Commissioner" would give a clearer indication of their respective roles.[3]


Organigram of the political system of the European Union, showing three presidents of the European Union

Whilst distinct, each president is required to closely co-operate with one another in a complex political system.[citation needed] Under the ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union, the Commission proposes legislation with the Parliament and Council of the European Union coming to a co-decision on amendments and adoption of the law. The president of each of these organs is generally held responsible their functioning and direction.[citation needed]

President of the European Council[edit]

The president of the European Council is considered the principal representative of the EU internationally and diplomatically.[4] They are required to lead the Council, which works to set the EU’s general political direction and promote compromise and consensus within the Council. They are appointed by the appropriate national leaders in the European Council.[1]

Prior to the Treaty of Lisbon, each member state (in turn) took the responsibilities of both the Presidency of the European Council and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union,the latter held by its Prime Minister or President[citation needed]. The press frequently summarised these responsibilities to the shorthand tag "EU Presidency" or "EU President", both for the country holding it or its political leader.[citation needed]

President of the European Commission[edit]

The president of the European Commission leads the Commission, the executive and cabinet of the European Union. The president, as part of this institution, is responsible for the political direction, logistics and implementation of European law and held accountable to both the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.[1] They are also required to make a State of the Union address to the European Parliament, modelled after the United States.[5]

The role gives the holder the right to allocate portfolios to, dismiss and reshuffle European Commissioners and direct the Commission’s civil service. The president is nominated by the European Council and appointed by the European Parliament.[1] It is customary that the European Council uses the result of the last European elections to guide their nomination.

President of the European Parliament[edit]

The president of the European Parliament ensures proper parliamentary procedure is followed and is responsible for representing the Parliament in both legal and diplomatic settings. The president must also give final assent to the EU budget.[1]


Principal leaders of the  European Union

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


External links[edit]