Wednesday 25 March 2009

European Council: Council configurations & Presidencies

According to the EU Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council would decide on Council configurations and Council Presidencies by qualified majority voting (QMV).


Original Lisbon Treaty

Article 2, point 189 of the original Treaty of Lisbon inserted a new Section 1a on the European Council and new Articles 201a and 202b (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/103).


Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

In the consolidated Treaty of Lisbon we find Article 202b as the renumbered Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in Part Six Institutional and financial provisions, Title 1 Institutional provisions, Chapter 1 The institutions, Section 2 The European Council (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/153):

Article 236 TFEU

The European Council shall adopt by a qualified majority:

(a) a decision establishing the list of Council configurations, other than those of the General Affairs Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council, in accordance with Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union;

(b) a decision on the Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union.


Council configurations

In the Lisbon Treaty, Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) means that the current General Affairs and External Affairs Council (GAERC) is split into two.

The aim is that the new General Affairs Council (GAC) coordinates the work of the different Council configurations, as well as prepares and follows up the meetings of the European Council.

The new Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) would deal with the EU’s external action on the basis of the strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council.

The other Council configurations can be changed by the European Council by QMV.

If the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, implementing decisions are required (and need to be prepared).

Existing configurations

The Council configurations have been brought down to fairly manageable number of nine. The existing configurations are found in Annex 1 to the Council’s Rules of Procedure (the consolidated version of 1 January 2009) of Council Decision of 15 September 2006 adopting the Council’s Rules of Procedure (originally published OJEU 16.10.2006 L 285/47):


1. General affairs and external relations;

2. Economic and financial affairs;

3. Justice and home affairs;

4. Employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs;

5. Competitiveness (internal market, industry and research);

6. Transport, telecommunications and energy;

7. Agriculture and fisheries;

8. Environment;

9. Education, youth and culture.


Council Presidency

The new Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative, but the Council Presidency as a generic term or the Presidencies of the different Council configurations need to be established on the basis of equal rotation according to Article 16(9) TEU and Article 236(b) TFEU.

Declaration 9

At the time of signing the Treaty of Lisbon, the intergovernmental conference was keen to exhort the Council to begin preparing the decision establishing the procedures for implementing the decision on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council as soon as the Treaty of Lisbon is signed, and to give its political approval within six months.

Declaration 9 on Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union concerning the European Council decision on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council contains a Draft decision of the European Council on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council.

The main provision is Article 1, which does not achieve a united Council Presidency for 18 months, but aims to enhance the current “troika” system into a Presidency “trio”, but still with separate stints at the helm (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/341):

Article 1

1. The Presidency of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration, shall be held by pre-established groups of three Member States for a period of 18 months. The groups shall be made up on a basis of equal rotation among the Member States, taking into account their diversity and geographical balance within the Union.

2. Each member of the group shall in turn chair for a six-month period all configurations of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration. The other members of the group shall assist the Chair in all its responsibilities on the basis of a common programme. Members of the team may decide alternative arrangements among themselves.

Existing Presidency list

The existing list of Council Presidencies is contained in the Annex to the Council Decision of 1 January 2007 determining the order in which the office of President of the Council shall be held (OJEU 4.1.2007 L 1/11).

The first trio with a common programme was Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. The second 18 month programme is the ongoing one of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden. In a union of 27 states, each one is in turn every 13.5 years.

Formally, the European Council may prepare to adopt a new decision, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, but it does not necessarily mean that the order would be changed. In the event of accessions, the new member states might be inserted into an amending decision, or added only when the current list runs out.


Germany January-June 2007

Portugal July-December 2007

Slovenia January-June 2008

France July-December 2008

Czech Republic January-June 2009

Sweden July-December 2009

Spain January-June 2010

Belgium July-December 2010

Hungary January-June 2011

Poland July-December 2011

Denmark January-June 2012

Cyprus July-December 2012

Ireland January-June 2013

Lithuania July-December 2013

Greece January-June 2014

Italy July-December 2014

Latvia January-June 2015

Luxembourg July-December 2015

Netherlands January-June 2016

Slovakia July-December 2016

Malta January-June 2017

United Kingdom July-December 2017

Estonia January-June 2018

Bulgaria July-December 2018

Austria January-June 2019

Romania July-December 2019

Finland January-June 2020

Ralf Grahn

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