According to the present EC Treaty (Article 203) the office of President shall be held in turn by each Member State in the Council for a term of six months in the order decided by the Council acting unanimously. In an expanded European Union with 27 members each Member State would be in charge once in about fourteen years.
If the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force on 1 January 2009, the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council are going to get permanent Presidents and the rest of the Council configurations are going to advance one more step towards team Presidencies. I described these changes in two articles on my Swedish blog.
Portugal has a few weeks left of its Presidency. Eurozone country Slovenia is going to shoulder the Presidency from the beginning of January until the end of June 2008. This is a major undertaking for a country with a population of two million.
Slovenia, which is the first of the new Member States to take on the task, has opened its preliminary Presidency web site. It should be in active use from 1 January, but already you can find basic information about the country and you can subscribe to newsletters and news alerts.
In advance of the formal changes in the Constitutional Treaty and now the Treaty of Lisbon, the Member States of the EU have gradually moved towards greater continuity in the work of the Council than offered by unconnected six month programmes. The 18 month joint Presidency programme of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia was the first of its kind.
Within this programme Slovenia stresses four issues:
the future of the EU (the Treaties and institutional reform)
EU enlargement and the new neighbourhood policy (particularly the Western Balkans)
Since the original programme is on its last leg, modifications seem likely.
The next Presidency trio consists of
France (July – December 2008)
Czech Republic (January – June 2009)
Sweden (July – December 2009)
Despite their different approaches to European integration, these countries should manage to agree on a joint 18 month programme.
France may be the last Member State to handle an undivided Presidency of the EU. The French government is preparing for its EU Presidency with ferocious energy and a high profile.
Background and sources:
Ralf Grahn: Ny tid för EU-ordförandeskapen (in Swedish); 1 December 2007; http://grahnblawg.blogspot.com
Ralf Grahn: Ordförandeskapet i Lissabonfördraget (in Swedish); 2 December 2007; http://grahnblawg.blogspot.com
Slovenian EU presidency website online as of 1 January 2008; http://www.eu2008.si
Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union; Government Communication Office; http://www.ukom.gov.si/eng
The programme and priorities of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU; Government Communication Office; http://www.ukom.gov.si/eng