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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Presidency of the EU

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a responsibility held not by one person, but by a whole country. The presidency rotates every six months between the member states. However, there are plans to replace this rota system with a full-time, individual president.

Chairing meetings

One of the main responsibilities of the country holding the EU Presidency is to take charge of all meetings of the Council of the European Union. This includes several types of meeting:

  • the European Council summits of national leaders
  • meetings of ministers from each member state, about specific policy areas
  • meetings of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, made up of EU ambassadors
  • working groups and committees, which consider proposals and prepare decisions

Each meeting is organised and chaired by the minister or officials representing the country holding the presidency.

Representing the Council

Another main role of the presidency is to represent the Council of the European Union in negotiations with other EU bodies, including the European Parliament and the European Commission.

While holding the presidency, many member states take the chance to debate and propose legislation on issues that are important to them, such as finance or business. They must also continue negotiations outstanding from the previous country's presidency, and if necessary hand them on to the following country.

As the holder of the presidency, a country is the EU's representative all over the world, and might be asked to speak on behalf of the EU in meetings with important organisations such as the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation.

The Lisbon Treaty: President of the European Council

The Lisbon Treaty, signed in December 2007, aims to make the changes needed for the EU to work more effectively. One of these changes is to create a permanent, full-time President of the European Council.

The full-time president will be a politician chosen by the leaders of the member states. The president will serve for two and a half years, instead of a country taking charge every six months. This change should provide more continuity.

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