The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is exercised by rotation by each Member State over a period of 6 months. By definition, the Presidency must be neutral and impartial during the exercise of its term; therefore, it cannot promote their own policy options, and neither those of another Member State. It has three major missions.
The first task is that of planning and heading the meeting within the various Council formations (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council) and of its working groups.
The Presidency has, first of all, the duty to promote, within the meetings we shall preside in Brussels, the European agenda, by providing a fair framework for negotiation.
The efforts of the Presidency mainly focus on presenting proposals for compromise, capable of leading to the adoption of common positions of the Member States.
The presidency must act as a facilitator, being responsible for advancing the Council’s works on European legislation, for ensuring the continuity of the European Union’s agenda, of well-organized legislative processes and cooperation between Member States.
The second task concerns the representation of the Council in its relations with other Union institutions, especially with the European Commission and the European Parliament. In its activity, the Presidency cooperates closely with the President of the European Council and with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The third task is assuming the representation of the European Union in its dialogue with external partners, temporarily replacing the High Representative, where he/she cannot participate.
The actual obligations of a Presidency of the Council of the European Union are translated in providing the necessary resources for presiding, in Brussels, over ministerial meetings, at ambassador level, and of over 150 working groups at Council level. 200-300 legislative files are negotiated in this format, throughout 1,500 formal and informal meetings. As concerns the manner of working, Presidencies are grouped in trios, ensuring a coherent general framework for the activity of the Council of the European Union for an uninterrupted period of 18 months.
The main challenges faced by Member States holding the Presidency of the EU Council include shaping their unique political vision on the development of the European project and its policies, ensuring adequate administrative capacity, well-equipped from the point of view of competencies and level of expertise, and, implicitly, of an efficient national system of inter-ministerial coordination in the field of European Affairs.
Recent Presidencies of the EU Council have taken place in a complex European and international context, requiring diverse actions such as: 1) managing the current agenda for the development of the legislative framework; 2) managing responses to current/known crises (financial system, migration, etc.) and 3) managing responses to unknown crises, which are difficult to predict at this time.
The process of preparing the exercise of a Presidency is a laborious, lengthy process, requiring a consistent analysis in respect to the implications that the exercise of this attribution entails at the level of political commitment in relation to the European project, at the level of public administration, under the aspect of the sizing, training and improving human resources, of designing logistical and communication aspects, as well as of political coordination.
A powerful Presidency requires a sustained and convergent effort from the part of the entire administration, as well as various levels of involvement of society as a whole.