The European Union: Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Wednesday, 1 July 2020 - 02:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Editorial, European Union, General

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 presidency is currently, as of July 2020, held by Germany. Three successive presidencies are known as presidency trios. The current trio (2020–21) is made up of Germany (July–December 2020), Portugal (January–June 2021) and Slovenia (July–December 2021).

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. 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: Formal Trilogue meetings 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 third 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

Germany will chair the Council in the second half of 2020. In view of the Corona pandemic, some of the original objectives have been abandoned or scaled down in order to focus more on coping with the Corona crisis and further deepening EU integration. Very big tasks and challenges are waiting to be solved.

DW, 30 June 2020: Opinion: Angela Merkel’s moment to define the EU’s future, Politico.eu, 30 June 2020: The EU’s most powerful Germans, DW, 1 July 2020: Angela Merkel’s last EU Council Presidency — what to expect, France24, 1 July 2020: Germany assumes EU presidency as Merkel pushes for massive bloc-wide recovery plan, Politico.eu, 1 July 2020: Germans need to stop with the finger-wagging, DW, 2 July 2020: Germany takes helm of EU presidency, Merkel urges resolve on virus recovery plan, DW, 5 July 2020: Faith leaders call to keep EU’s religious freedom envoy, Foreign Policy, 8 July 2020: Angela Merkel Is Back, Arab News, 9 July 2020: Angela Merkel right to promote EU solidarity in key speech, The Guardian, 13 July 2020: The world needs grown-up leadership. Time for Germany to step up, France24, 21 July 2020: EU leaders agree landmark 750 bn euro recovery deal, BBC, 21 July 2020: EU agrees €750bn virus recovery fund, The Guardian, 21 July 2020: EU Leaders seal deal on €750bn Covid-19 recovery plans, France24, 21 July 2020: EU leaders adopt Covid-19 rescue package after marathon summit, BBC, 21 July 2020: Coronavirus: EU leaders reach recovery deal after marathon summit, CNN, 21 July 2020: EU leaders have reached an agreement on a $858 billion coronavirus stimulus package, France24, 21 July 2020: It’s a ‘deal’ as EU leaders end marathon summit with historic rescue package, Politico.eu, 21 July 2020: EU leaders agree on €1.82T budget and coronavirus recovery package, France24, 21 July 2020: EU rescue deal: ‘The most important moment in the life of our Europe,’ says Macron, The New York Times, 21 July 2020: E.U. Adopts $857 Billion Stimulus to Fight Coronavirus Recession, Politico.eu, 21 July 2020: Toward an ever closer imperfect union, The Washington Post, 21 July 2020: E.U. leaders agree to $859 billion stimulus package, Politico.eu, 21 July 2020: POLITICO’s guide to the EU budget deal, The Guardian, 22 July 2020: With its recovery deal, is the EU finally starting to act like a unifying force?, Arab News, 23 July 2020: Why EU’s historic breakthrough is a major milestone, Politico.eu, 24 July 2020: EU summit insults and rubbish superheroes, Politico.eu, 24 July 2020: EU says landmark budget deal adds pressure on UK in Brexit talks, Politico.eu, 24 July 2020: Charles Michel, the budget deal and the art of the terrace tête-à-tête, France24, 25 July 2020: EU recovery plan deals a blow to popular Erasmus exchange programme, Politico.eu, 25 July 2020: The EU budget and recovery deal — in charts, The National, 26 July 2020: How much will the EU’s ‘historic’ new deal change life in Europe?, The Washington Post, 26 July 2020: Is Europe finally coming together?, The Guardian, 30 July 2020: Can Germany now hold the European team together?.

Read more on Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, bundesregierung.de, 18 June 2020: Policy statement by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Council on 19 June 2020, VOLT Europa, United Europe, Pulse of Europe and Wikipedia Presidency of the Council of the European Union.


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