In the context of Article 204 TEC (Article 237 TFEU) and based on the programming, the Council’s Rules of Procedure foresaw the establishment of indicative provisional agendas by the incoming Council Presidency for the next six months. When a Council meeting approaches, a provisional agenda is drawn up and communicated to the members of the Council, together with the relevant documents.
The main rule is that the provisional agenda and the relevant documents are sent to the governments at least 14 days before the Council meeting, as provided for in Article 3(1) and (2) of the Council’s Rules of Procedure.
A longer period of 21 days is envisioned, when the documents relate to:
• Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons (TEC Title IV of Part 3)
• Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (TEU Title VI).
This is what footnote (1), statement (b), says:
(b) Re Article 3(1) and (2)
“The President will endeavour to ensure that, in principle, the provisional agenda for each meeting of the Council dealing with implementation of Title IV of Part 3 of the EC Treaty and Title VI of the EU Treaty and any documents relating to the items involved reach members of the Council at least 21 days before the beginning of the meeting.”
Article 3(1) and (2) Council’s Rules of Procedure
1. Taking into account the Council's 18-month programme, the President shall draw up the provisional agenda for each meeting. The agenda shall be sent to the other members of the Council and to the Commission at least 14 days before the beginning of the meeting.
2. The provisional agenda shall contain the items in respect of which a request for inclusion on the agenda, together with any documents relating thereto, has been received by the General Secretariat from a member of the Council or from the Commission at least 16 days before the beginning of that meeting. The provisional agenda shall also indicate by way of an asterisk the items on which the Presidency, a member of the Council or the Commission may request a vote. Such an indication shall be made once all the procedural requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with.
In most cases the member states’ representations at the Council and the governments back home are familiar with the upcoming issues, but the strict rules are meant to pre-empt surprises.
Some exceptions are foreseen, as shown by footnote 1 with statement (c) to Article 3:
(c) Re Articles 1 and 3
“Without prejudice to Article 22(2) of the EU Treaty, which specifies that an extraordinary Council meeting may be convened at very short notice in cases requiring a rapid decision, the Council is aware of the need for matters relating to the common foreign and security policy to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. The arrangements in Article 3 shall not prevent this need from being met.”