Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Term length Six months
Inaugural holder  Belgium
European Union
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The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is the responsibility for the functioning of the Council of the European Union that rotates between the member states of the European Union (EU) every six months. The presidency is not a single president but rather the task is undertaken by a national government. It is also not the "Presidency of the EU" (although it is sometimes called that), as there is no such thing: each EU institution has its own President. Three successive Council presidencies, known as presidency trios, cooperate for an 18-month period to provide additional continuity by sharing common political programmes. The current (2011–2012) trio consists of Poland (which took up the position 1 July 2011), Denmark (which will take over in January 2012) and Cyprus (will take over in July 2012).



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 were 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 via the Treaty of Lisbon.

Until 2009, the EU Council Presidency had assumed political responsibility in all areas of European integration, and it played a vital role in brokering high level political decisions through the contact among national diplomats in Brussels.

The Treaty of Lisbon strongly reduced the importance of the Presidency, significantly by officially separating the European Council (EU heads of state or government) from the Council of the European Union, thus terminating the capacity of the head of state or government of the member state holding the Presidency to be President of the European Council. Simultaneously it split the foreign affairs Council configuration from the General Affairs configuration and made the High Representative the chairman rather than the foreign minister of the Presidency state. In the current EU constitutional framework, the EU Council retains the task to actively engage in negotiating legislation among member states and among the EU Council and the European Parliament, although the most difficult dossiers are subsumed by the President of the European Council.[1]

On top of the intended downgrading of the rotating Council presidency, the presidency has become even less influential in practice than planned. The High Representative has been taking on roles previously guarded by the presidency country's foreign minister and the European Council president has begun acting on finance policy; the most important policy area left to the rotating presidency. It is expected that the European Council president would be strengthened further when Belgium holds the rotating Presidency.[2] There was some previous opposition to downgrading the rotating presidency too much with Sweden claiming it would disengage member states from feeling actively engaged in running the EU, especially smaller states.


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 a 1.5 year 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 a 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 Mediterranean Union 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 anymore, with the 2009 reforms by the Lisbon Treaty, 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

Period Trio Holder Website
1958 Jan–Jun    Belgium  
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1959 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Italy
1960 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1961 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1962 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Italy
1963 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1964 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1965 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Italy
1966 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1967 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1968 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Italy
1969 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1970 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1971 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Italy
1972 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1973 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  Denmark
1974 Jan–Jun  West Germany
Jul–Dec  France
1975 Jan–Jun  Ireland
Jul–Dec  Italy
1976 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1977 Jan–Jun  United Kingdom
Jul–Dec  Belgium
1978 Jan–Jun  Denmark
Jul–Dec  West Germany
1979 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Ireland
1980 Jan–Jun  Italy
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg
1981 Jan–Jun  Netherlands
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom
1982 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  Denmark
1983 Jan–Jun  West Germany
Jul–Dec  Greece
1984 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Ireland
1985 Jan–Jun  Italy
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg
1986 Jan–Jun  Netherlands
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom
1987 Jan–Jun  Belgium
Jul–Dec  Denmark
1988 Jan–Jun  West Germany
Jul–Dec  Greece
1989 Jan–Jun  Spain
Jul–Dec  France
1990 Jan–Jun  Ireland
Jul–Dec  Italy
1991 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
1992 Jan–Jun  Portugal
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom
1993 Jan–Jun  Denmark
Jul–Dec  Belgium
1994 Jan–Jun  Greece
Jul–Dec  Germany
1995 Jan–Jun  France
Jul–Dec  Spain
1996 Jan–Jun  Italy
Jul–Dec  Ireland
1997 Jan–Jun  Netherlands
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg
1998 Jan–Jun  United Kingdom
Jul–Dec  Austria  ?
1999 Jan–Jun  Germany  ?
Jul–Dec  Finland
2000 Jan–Jun  Portugal  ?
Jul–Dec  France  ?
2001 Jan–Jun  Sweden
Jul–Dec  Belgium
2002 Jan–Jun  Spain
Jul–Dec  Denmark
2003 Jan–Jun  Greece
Jul–Dec  Italy
2004 Jan–Jun  Ireland
Jul–Dec  Netherlands
2005 Jan–Jun  Luxembourg
Jul–Dec  United Kingdom
2006 Jan–Jun  Austria
Jul–Dec  Finland1
2007 Jan–Jun T1  Germany
Jul–Dec  Portugal
2008 Jan–Jun  Slovenia
Jul–Dec T2  France
2009 Jan–Jun  Czech Republic
Jul–Dec  Sweden
2010 Jan–Jun T3  Spain
Jul–Dec  Belgium
2011 Jan–Jun  Hungary
Jul–Dec T4  Poland
2012 Jan–Jun  Denmark
Jul–Dec  Cyprus
2013 Jan–Jun T5  Ireland[3]
Jul–Dec  Lithuania TBD
2014 Jan–Jun  Greece TBD
Jul–Dec T6  Italy TBD
2015 Jan–Jun  Latvia TBD
Jul–Dec  Luxembourg TBD
2016 Jan–Jun T7  Netherlands TBD
Jul–Dec  Slovakia TBD
2017 Jan–Jun  Malta TBD
Jul–Dec T8  United Kingdom TBD
2018 Jan–Jun  Estonia TBD
Jul–Dec  Bulgaria TBD
2019 Jan–Jun T9  Austria TBD
Jul–Dec  Romania TBD
2020 Jan–Jun  Finland TBD

1Germany was due to succeed Austria in 2006 but stepped aside as general elections were scheduled for that period. Finland, as next in line, took their place. In the event, the German elections took place in 2005 due to a loss of confidence vote, but the re-arrangement remained.

See also


External links

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