The Presidency in general
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates every six months. It is the responsibility of the Member State holding the Presidency to ensure that the Council makes decisions on issues that fall within its competence and that the work of the Council proceeds systematically.
The Presidency has three main responsibilities. It directs and chairs the work and meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) and some 200 other committees and working groups. The Presidency also drafts the agendas and prepares the issues to be discussed at the meetings. The Council’s annual operational programme provides guidelines for the Presidency’s work. The country holding the Presidency also chairs European Councils, i.e. the meetings of Heads of State or Government and the President of the European Commission that are usually organised in Brussels twice during every Presidency.
It is also the Presidency’s responsibility to represent the Union Member States in dealings with other EU institutions and bodies of the European Union, in particular the European Commission and the European Parliament. In addition to the aforementioned tasks, the Presidency, together with the European Commission, represents the European Union internationally.
Tasks of the Presidency
- direct the work of the Council of the European Union
- maintain relations with other Union institutions
- represent the European Union in international matters
The Presidency directs and supports the work of the EU Council
The main task of the Presidency is to prepare and direct the Council’s work and meetings. In its January meeting, the Council always holds a public debate on the its annual operational programme. In this connection, the forthcoming Presidency countries can introduce their own objectives. The Presidency countries also present their objectives at every Council formation at the beginning of their six-month Presidency.
In addition to directing the Council’s work, the Presidency has the important role of building bridges and brokering agreement among the Member States. This role is particularly important when the Union is dealing with controversial issues. In contentious situations, the Presidency listens to the views of Member States and EU institutions and endeavours to establish consensus and promote the Union's wellbeing.
According to the division of duties among the ministers of the Presidency country, the Prime Minister chairs the European Council meetings whilst other ministers chair the Council formations that correspond with their ministry’s policy areas. Civil servants lead the work of the committees and working groups. During Finland’s EU Presidency, some 3,300 official meetings will be organised in Brussels. Most of these meetings will relate to the work of the committees and working groups. Finland will host some 130 Presidency meetings.
The Presidency represents the Council of the European Union
One of the main roles of the Presidency is to represent the Member States in negotiations with other EU institutions, including the European Parliament and the Commission. The Presidency maintains, throughout the six-month period, close contacts with the European Parliament. At the start of its term, the Presidency country submits its work programme to the European Parliament and, at the end of the six-month period, a report is delivered to the Parliament on the outcomes of the Presidency. It is the Presidency’s responsibility to maintain dialogue between the Council and the European Parliament and negotiate with Parliament on issues relating to legislative work. The Presidency country’s ministers regularly attend the European Parliament’s question time.
The Presidency also maintains close relations with the European Commission, which is important, for example, in international trade negotiations. In such negotiations, the Commission, with the consent of the Council, represents the whole Union.
The Presidency also maintains close relations with other Union institutions. For example, representatives of the Presidency visit the European Court of Justice. The Presidency also presents its work programme to the Economic and Social Committee and to the Committee of the Regions.
The Presidency represents the European Union internationally
The European Union’s international influence has continued to grow and one of the Presidency’s main tasks is to act as the Union’s representative in the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The Presidency also maintains dialogue between the EU and third countries. The Presidency prepares the work and decisions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which is responsible for issues relating to the Union’s external relations and security.
In addition, the Presidency represents the Union and submits the Union’s coordinated positions in international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Secretary-General of the Council, Javier Solana, who is also the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, assists the Presidency in matters relating to external relations.
A six-month Presidency
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates every six months. A total of 3,300 meetings will be organised during Finland’s EU Presidency. Approximately 130 of those meetings will take place in Finland. Finland assumes the EU Presidency after Austria and passes it on to Germany at the beginning of 2007. Portugal will hold the Presidency during the latter half of 2007 and Slovenia will take over the position in 2008. Finland held its previous EU Presidency during the latter half of 1999.
The order in which the Member States will hold the Presidency has been settled among them up to 2020. Finland will next hold the Presidency of the EU in spring 2020.