Formally, the Council of the European Union is convened by its President in accordance with Article 204 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). Cf. the latest consolidated version of the treaties, published OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/136.
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the corresponding provision would be Article 237 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), published in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/153.
Council’s Rules of Procedure
The treaty provisions are complemented by the Council’s Rules of Procedure.
Originally published OJEU 16.10.2006 L 285/47, the latest consolidated version of Council Decision 2006/683/EC, Euratom of 15 September 2006 adopting the Council's Rules of Procedure is of 1 January 2009.
Draft Presidency programme
Article 2(4) of the Council’s Rules of Procedure strives to enhance continuity in the work of the Council, despite the rotating six months presidencies, by establishing a joint presidency programme for the trio during 18 months:
“4. Every 18 months, the three Presidencies due to hold office shall prepare, in close cooperation with the Commission, and after appropriate consultations, a draft programme of Council activities for that period. The three Presidencies shall jointly submit the draft programme no later than one month before the relevant period, with a view to its endorsement by the General Affairs and External Relations Council, convened in a meeting as referred to in paragraph 2(a).”
The provision has been given further precisions by the following statement, added as a footnote:
(1) See statement (a) set out below:
(a) Concerning Article 2(4):
“The 18-month programme will include a general introductory section setting the programme in the context of the European Union's longer term strategic orientations. On this section, the three Presidencies in charge of preparing the draft 18-month programme will consult with the three subsequent Presidencies, as part of the “appropriate consultations” referred to in the first sentence of paragraph 4.
The draft 18-month programme should also have regard, inter alia, to relevant points arising from the dialogue on the political priorities for the year, conducted at the Commission's initiative.”
Presidency troika meetings have taken place for a long time, but the practice to institute Presidency trios with a joint 18 month programme started in 2007. It is one example of how the workings of the EU institutions can be at least marginally improved without treaty change.
The first Presidency trio consisted of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia.
The ongoing second trio comprises France, the Czech Republic (until 30 June 2009) and Sweden (from 1 July 2009).
Spain, Belgium and Hungary with form the third Presidency trio, from the beginning of 2010.
Source: Wikipedia: Presidency of the Council of the European Union (latest update 20 May 2009).
The trio programme forms the basis for the work programme of each Council Presidency and the meeting calendar.