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Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic

THE PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EU

The Council of the European Union (the Council) is an institution comprised of ministers of Member States who promote their own countries´ policies within it. Ministers convene to adopt legislation (on the vast majority of policy areas together with the European Parliament), in order to coordinate policies, conclude international agreements and adopt the EU´s budget. Even though the Council is formally a single legal entity, in practice it convenes in 10 different configurations depending on the subject discussed. Environmental and climate change issues are debated within the Environment Council four times a year, bringing together ministers responsible for the environment portfolio.

In accordance with the EU Treaties, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, the Council functions on the principle of a 6-month rotating Presidency. The Treaty of Lisbon institutionalised the Trio Presidency, under which the Council Presidency is held by pre-established groups of three consecutive presidencies. The Trio Presidency carries out its common 18-month political programme whereby it ensures continuity of the Council´s work resulting in it producing more coordinated, consistent and therefore more effective policies from a long-term perspective. Based on the Trio Presidency programme, each Presidency country formulates its own 6-month work programme and priorities.

 

The current order of the Council Presidencies set until 2020 was established by the European Union Council decision of December 2007, as follows:

Luxembourg

July – December 2015

Netherland

January – June 2016

Slovakia

July – December 2016

Malta

January – June 2017

Grat Britain

July – December 2017

Estonia

January – June 2018

Bulgaria

July – December 2018

Austria

January – June 2019

Romania

July – December 2019

Finland

January – June 2020

The EU Council Presidency is considered one of the most difficult and demanding assignments to emerge from EU membership, because the Presidency country is responsible primarily for two of the following main tasks:

1.     Planning and chairing the meetings of the Council of the EU

The Presidency is in charge of planning and chairing the Council meetings from its highest ministerial level to over 150 of its preparatory bodies. The only exception is the Foreign Affairs Council, which is, since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, permanently chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Chairing all these meetings is no simple task as it involves setting their agendas and timetables as well as putting forward compromises when needed, in order to reach an agreement among Member States.

2.     Internal and external representation of the Council of the EU

The Presidency represents the Council in its relations with other EU institutions, in particular with the Commission and the Parliament in the form of trialogues and at the Conciliation Committee meetings in order to reach agreement on legislative dossiers. The basis of a successful Presidency therefore relies on close coordination, communication and maintenance of good relationships with both institutions, notably with the EP as a co-legislator. The Presidency also represents the EU externally in relation to third countries in some policy areas.

In order to successfully perform these tasks, the Presidency must act as an honest and impartial broker. However, in practice, the tasks provide room to specifically promote policies that are closest to the national interests of the Presidency country.

As a consequence of the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the Presidency works in close coordination with two newly established actors - the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, currently the former Italian foreign minister, F. Mogherini, and the permanent President of the European Council, currently the former Policy Prime Minister, D. Tusk.

Last update 20/03/2015