Saturday 15 January 2011

Hungarian EU Council presidency: Small but telling signs?

The holders of the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (Wikipedia) have not contributed only to the great events and mundane work of European integration, but the main developments are reflected in more intimate details.

Traditionally, the presidency appeared on the web in the form eu-year-national top level domain, such as (although France could be counted on to use the inverted ue characteristic of French and other Romance languages).

Even back then, although the member state in question tended to be forgetful, it was not the EU President but the president (chair) of the Council (configurations).


Sweden was the last member state to begin its EU Council presidency under the Treaty of Nice, chairing the European Council summits and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in addition to the other Council configurations.

The Swedish government added a small, but nice touch, by profiling its competent presidency under the EU top level domain:

Presidency trios

The Treaty of Lisbon, which finally entered into force on 1 December 2009, enshrined and tried to boost the principle of presidency trios in order to promote continuity and consistency in the work of the Council.

If you are interested, you find the references back to the Lisbon Treaty in the decision adopted:

EUROPEAN COUNCIL DECISION 2009/881/EU of 1 December 2009 on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council (OJEU 2.12.2009 L 315/50)

Article 1 provides for the 18 month trio (officially, group) and its common programme:

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.

(Worth noticing are the provisions on the Coreper and FAC and other preparatory external action bodies, as well as the noble intentions to strengthen the fledgling General Affairs Council GAC, which in spite of this still today looks like an additional habitat for foreign ministers.)


Spain did not know very much in advance before assuming the presidency that the Lisbon Treaty would be in force, and the Spanish government had some difficulties in adapting to the more modest role of the new presidency of the Council, so we find the website at the old style address:

However, the Spanish government did use the eutrio logo extensively.

There was (and is) a joint programme for the work of the ES-BE-HU presidency trio, although officially it is still called a draft and it has not, to my knowledge, been printed in a more glossy form like the individual six month work programmes:

[Draft] 18 month programme of the Council (27 November 2009, document 16771/10)

Belgium seems to have been the main protagonist of team spirit, producing web pages for the Trio of Presidencies of the Council of the European Union and profiling itself as a part of the team:

The Belgian presidency offered us the following explanation about the logo:

Each version of the logo assumes the colours of the country's flag, but the addition of the word “trio” as an exponent denotes the solidarity between the three countries.


As I wrote before, the government of Belgium showed team spirit by using the web address and the #EuTrioBe hashtag on Twitter, in: Belgian EU Council presidency legacy (6 January 2011).

The last thing the Belgian presidency did on its web page was to hand the presidency over to

If the take-off was European, the landing is Hungarian. You arrive at:

You find the Hungarian part of the common logo displayed all over the place, but without references to the trio. The web address is distinctly from the past.

Pure coincidence or tell-tale sign? Was team spirit a six month flash in the pan? Are we back at the spirit of the Nice Treaty in A.D. 2011 and beyond?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. ” Hongrie 2011 : Une présidence de trop ? ” asked the French euroblogger Cédric Puisney in the latest post on his blog Un européen jamais content, although I would be happy to se him post more often. (Combine improving knowledge and language skills by reading Euroblogs.)

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