Monday 25 April 2011

EU Council: Official and informal meetings (Competitiveness)

The official meetings of the Council of the European Union are the tip of the iceberg, although EU citizens in general are not well informed about how the Council works. Even less known among the wider public are the informal (unofficial) gatherings of ministers from the EU member states.

EU Council functions

According to Article 16(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

The Council shall, jointly with the European Parliament, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall carry out policy-making and coordinating functions as laid down in the Treaties.
Resembling both a second chamber of parliament and a government, the Council as a whole is an institution of the European Union.

Council configurations

Because of the unitary structure, a formal Council decision can be taken by any configuration.

However, the ministers of the EU member states meet officially in different Council configurations to exercise the functions of the Council, not unlike ministries or departments (or parliamentary committees) in the member states.

We have different Council configurations, such as the General Affairs Council (GAC) entrusted with preparation, coordination and follow-up of European Council meetings (summits), the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) dealing with all aspects of EU external action, the Economic and Financial Affaris Council (ECOFIN) coordinating economic policies and monitoring public finances, the Competitiveness Council (COMP) responsible for the internal market, industry, research and space, etc.

The press releases of the Competitiveness Council, available on the Council website, reflect the official functions.

Informal Council meetings

Even less known are the regularly occurring informal (unofficial) meetings of Council configurations, or parts of them. The informal meetings remain under the radar screen at Council level (Consilium).

If you want a fuller picture, you have to turn to the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union; Hungary during the first six months of 2011.

Competitiveness Council

As an example, in future blog posts I am going to look at Competitiveness through the prism of the web pages of the Hungarian EU Council presidency, especially with a view towards issues unreported at the Consilum website, but important to us Europeans in the context of the Europe 2020 growth strategy (EU2020) and the relaunch of the Single Market.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Kosmopolito, the blog with a European perspective, could be updated more frequently, but it is always thought-provoking and interesting when it does. Don't miss @kosmopolit on Twitter.

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