The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a six-month rotating presidency among member states. It was established in 1958, but considerably improved by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Each country gets a period of six months to preside, but its presidency is viewed as a part of the trio the country belongs to. Three countries will form a presidency trio and will have to agree on the goals and issues to work on for the next 18 months.
There is an ongoing debate whether the presidency truly benefits the member state. On the one hand, it is said that the member state gains political and negotiating power through its principal role of setting the Council meetings’ agenda. Furthermore, the presidency increases the member states’ visibility in international media as well as it creates various possibilities for potential partnerships and negotiations with international actors. On the other hand, the justification of extensive financial and administrative costs is often questioned. High administrative and financial costs are a heavy pressure on the smaller member states. Not only that, but the agenda setting role, deciding on the topics and priorities is often limited by the past presidencies. Another objection is that the six-month period is a too short period to achieve true accomplishments. Nevertheless, the presidency can use its influence to accelerate the process and a resolution of the agenda topics of its interest and postpone discussion of other ones. The presiding member state enjoys higher visibility and international affirmation as well as a stronger influence on the negotiation process than before.
Successful presidency is measured by the ability to close files and achieve agreement on the agenda’s topics. It is not expected to close all of them, due to a time limitation, but a successful presidency must close one topic of the agenda completely or it must achieve a significant development and improvement in on policy area, without closing the topic. Another indicator is responsiveness to crucial political and economic events in contrast to an exclusive focus on issues of domestic importance. Mastering technical, administrative and diplomatic responsibilities is also seen as an indicator of success. Additionally, the political stability of the national government of presiding member state will play a significant role in the success of the presidency. Additional information about the presidency can be found here.
The current presidency trio is made up of the presidencies of the Romania, Finland and Croatia. While forming their agenda, they were expected to build upon the unresolved open issues of the previous presidencies while introducing new topics of European importance.
A policy paper, issued by GONG, was written about Croatian Presidency which provides a background overview of the key policy issues highly relevant for the upcoming presidency. Its aim is to serve as a “policy assistant” to active citizens as well as to all civic and political activists.