Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Lisbon Treaty & European Council: President’s job

In these troubled times, new job openings are scarce. Have you thought about becoming President of the European Council?

If the EU Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, the heads of state or government of the member states are going to fill a new post, that of the President of the European Council. We look at the official job description and look at how openly our leaders have prepared the position and the perks.



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Lisbon Treaty

Article 15(6) of the amended Treaty on European Union describes the tasks of the new President (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/23):


Article 15(6) TEU

6. The President of the European Council:

(a) shall chair it and drive forward its work;

(b) shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;

(c) shall endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;

(d) shall present a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council.

The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The President of the European Council shall not hold a national office.



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Liaisons

In addition, as President of the European Council you would have to liaise with the new General Affairs Council (GAC) and the Commission:


Article 16(6) TEU, second subparagraph

The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different Council configurations. It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the Commission.


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Emergency meetings

The leisurely pace of four annual meetings may be broken if developments on the international scene turn for the worse. You may have to convene an extra meeting:


Article 26(1) TEU, second subparagraph

If international developments so require, the President of the European Council shall convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council in order to define the strategic lines of the Union's policy in the face of such developments.


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Convention

If the European Council decides to call a Convention to examine treaty amendments, your job is to send the invitations:


Article 48(3) TEU, in part

3. If the European Council, after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, adopts by a simple majority a decision in favour of examining the proposed amendments, the President of the European Council shall convene a Convention composed of representatives of the national Parliaments, of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, of the European Parliament and of the Commission. ---


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Package deal

If you apply for this prestigious job, to become a member of the European Council (without a vote), you will have to convince at least a qualified majority of the current members that you are their man or woman.

But besides your personal qualities, you will have to fit into a larger pattern. In Declaration 6 the heads of state or government (intergovernmental conference) agreed on the following guidance for the (s)election of the President of the European Council. Note that political affiliation and gender are not mentioned among the relevant factors of diversity (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/338):



6. Declaration on Article 15(5) and (6), Article 17(6) and (7) and Article 18 of the Treaty on European Union

In choosing the persons called upon to hold the offices of President of the European Council, President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, due account is to be taken of the need to respect the geographical and demographic diversity of the Union and its Member States.


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Taking over

When you take over the reins, you may need to know how your buddies have planned the transition:


8. Declaration on practical measures to be taken upon the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon as regards the Presidency of the European Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council

In the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force later than 1 January 2009, the Conference requests the competent authorities of the Member State holding the six-monthly Presidency of the Council at that time, on the one hand, and the person elected President of the European Council and the person appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the other hand, to take the necessary specific measures, in consultation with the following six-monthly Presidency, to allow an efficient handover of the material and organisational aspects of the Presidency of the European Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council.


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Salary and perks

According to Article 243 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), your salary and perks will be decided by your peers:


Article 243 TFEU
(ex Article 210 TEC)

The Council shall determine the salaries, allowances and pensions of the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Members of the Commission, the Presidents, Members and Registrars of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the Secretary-General of the Council. It shall also
determine any payment to be made instead of remuneration.


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Preparatory work: Start

You might be interested in how the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon is moving along. Your first source of information is naturally what the European Council has decided in public. First you encounter the initial decision right after the signing of the treaty. The Presidency Conclusions reassuringly tell you that on 14 December 2007, the European Council agreed that it will take stock of progress on necessary preparatory work when appropriate so as to ensure the full functioning of the Treaty as soon as it enters into force. It underlines the comprehensive nature of this exercise and the consequent need for a single framework as well as political guidance at the highest level. Technical work will start in Brussels in January on the basis of a work programme which will be presented under the authority of the incoming President of the European Council [Slovenia].


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Follow-up

The following tidbits are offered to you and the rest of the public half a year later, in the 13 June 2008 report by the Slovenian Council Presidency to the 18 and 19 June 2008 European Council (document 10650/08). This is what it has to say about your coming job with regard to the needed new Rules of Procedure of the European Council:

Considerable progress was made on technical aspects of the European Council's Rules of Procedure; some other issues, related in particular to the preparation of European Council meetings, will require further work. A preliminary exchange of views focussed on the respective roles of those involved in the preparation of European Council meetings. There was broad support for the need for all of them to work closely together. A significant number of delegations underlined the need to ensure an adequate role in European Council meetings for the Head of State or Government of the Member State holding the Council presidency. These issues will require further work.


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Up-to-date information

Having seen that further work is needed, you want fresh information on progress.

The December 2008 meeting of the European Council was mainly interested in Ireland. It also tried to envision the transition to the Lisbon Treaty with regard to the numbers of MEPs and Commissioners, as well as the nomination of the President of the Commission and the rest of the Commission.

It did, however, without preceding public discussion, offer a glimpse of its thoughts about the preparation of the decisions concerning your new job and other matters of interest (document 17271/1/08 REV 1 Annex 1). As you see, you are to be consulted, if elected:

Declaration of the European Council

Treaty of Lisbon – Transitional measures concerning the Presidency of the European Council and the Presidency of the Foreign Affairs Council

In the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force at a date when a six-monthly Presidency of the Council has already begun, the European Council agrees that, as a matter of transition, in order to take into account the preparatory work and ensure harmonious continuity of work:

− the competent authorities of the Member State holding the six-monthly Presidency of the Council at that time will continue to chair all the remaining meetings of the Council and the European Council, as well as third-country meetings, until the end of the period of office;

− the following six-monthly Presidency of the Council will be in charge of taking the necessary specific measures relating to the organisational and material aspects of the Presidency of the European Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council during its period of office, in conformity with the Treaty. On these issues, close consultation will be established between this Presidency and the President (elect) of the European Council and the High Representative (designate) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.


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Other matters

You may be interested in the nomination procedure, the public debate, the weighing of your merits and the decision making, before you are consulted about the organisational and material aspects of your office as President of the European Council.

Sorry, the best public information you are able to lay your hands on is yesterday’s response from Europe Direct, available with comments on the Grahnlaw blog (Lisbon Treaty implementation: State of play).

Why worry? If you don’t belong to the charmed circle readily informed about the real state of affairs, you have no chance of getting the job.



Ralf Grahn