Tuesday 12 May 2009

European Union: Council meetings (I)

In a European Union based on member states, the European Council consisting of heads of state or government and the Council consisting of ministers form the decisive tandem.

When intergovernmental dealing leads nowhere, they can always accuse a weakened Commission of weakness in guarding the common interest.


Council meetings

The existing Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) has a short and quite formal provision on Council meetings. The President is the responsible government minister of the member state holding the rotating Council presidency.

He can act of his own accord or on the request of a member state. or the Commission (the latest consolidated version of the treaties, published OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/136):

Article 204 TEC

The Council shall meet when convened by its President on his own initiative or at the request of one of its Members or of the Commission.


Original Lisbon Treaty

In the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL), point 190 repealed Articles 202 and 203, and point 191 concerned amendments to Article 205 TEC.

In other words, no specific amendments were made to Article 204 TEC (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/104).


Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

After renumbering the provision became Article 237 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/153):


Article 237 TFEU
(ex Article 204 TEC)

The Council shall meet when convened by its President on his own initiative or at the request of one of its Members or of the Commission.


Structural differences

The wording is the same in the current and the Lisbon Treaty, but one notable difference is introduced by the Lisbon Treaty concerning the President. The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will be chaired by the double-hatted High Representative, while the rotating Council presidency continues to chair the other Council configurations.

We take one step backwards, to remind us of the main differences between the treaties.

In the current TEC, the tasks of the Council are described in an incomplete manner.

The Treaty of Lisbon locates the main institutional provisions in the amended TEU. The Council’s tasks, composition, qualified majorities, main configurations, Coreper, meetings in public and Presidency are at least mentioned in Article 16 of the amended Treaty on European Union. (We have discussed various aspects in previous posts.)

The Lisbon Treaty is more readable for the general reader. More technical provisions are located in the TFEU, although both treaties are equally binding.


Meetings are important enough to merit further presentation. We will look at details in a later blog post.

Ralf Grahn

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