The Presidency of the Council is held by the Member States of the European Union on a rotating basis and for periods of six months.
In order to ensure some continuity in terms of the programme, the so-called ‘trios’ of presidencies established by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Treat of Lisbon) were set up, in 2009, in which three Member States (outgoing Presidency, current Presidency and future Presidency) work together in close cooperation. The trio sets medium-term goals and prepares a joint agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over a period of 18 months. Based on this wider programme, each of the three Member States prepares its own more detailed 6-month programme.
The current Presidency trio is made up of Germany (second half of 2020), Portugal (first half of 2021) and Slovenia (second half of 2021).
The Portuguese Presidencies of the Council of the EU
Portugal first presided over the Council from January to June 1992, under the motto “Towards the European Union”. The main achievements under that presidency consisted of the signing of the Treaty on European Union and of the Agreement on the European Economic Area.
In 2000, Portugal’s second presidency sought to define “Europe on the Brink of the 21st Century” and organised the first EU-Africa Summit. This presidency also promoted the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy and the celebration of the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
In the Justice area, a High-Level conference on crime prevention was organised, resulting in the creation of the European Crime Prevention Network.
The most recent presidency, in 2007, defended a “stronger European Union for a better world”, and was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, which reformed the way in which the EU operated. The Portuguese presidency also organised the first EU-Brazil Summit and the second EU-Africa Summit.
The Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union (EU) is the institution that represents the Member States. Informally known as the Council, it is where, in the several sectoral areas, the Ministers from each EU Member States meet to coordinate policies, define strategies and adopt legislation.
The Tasks of the Presidency
Planning and chairing meetings in the Council and its preparatory bodies
The Member State that holds the Presidency chairs the meetings of the different Council configurations (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council) and the its preparatory bodies, which include permanent committees, such as the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), and technical working groups and committees that deal with very specific subjects.
The Council meetings take place in Brussels or Luxembourg. The informal ministerial meetings are held in the Member State holding the rotating presidency.
The Presidency ensures the smooth pace of the debates and the proper application of the Council's Rules of Procedure and working methods, facilitating commitments between the Member States and seeking to reach agreements on legislative or other matters.
Representing the Council in relations with the other EU institutions
The Presidency represents the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, particularly with the Commission and the European Parliament. Its role is to try and reach an agreement on legislative files through trialogues, informal negotiation meetings and Conciliation Committee meetings.
The Presidency works in close coordination with:
- the President of the European Council;
- the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The Presidency supports their work, and may sometimes be requested to perform certain duties for the High Representative, such as representing the Foreign Affairs Council before the European Parliament or chairing the Foreign Affairs Council when it discusses joint commercial policy issues.
The most significant moments in the relationship between the Presidency and the European Parliament are the presentation of the programme (at the beginning of the semester) and the presentation of the final report on the activities and results, (at the end of the semester).
As far as Justice is concerned, it is incumbent on the Minister of Justice to make those presentations to the LIBE Committee and the JURI Committee.