6th Dec 2023

Ministers choose status quo on rotating presidencies

  • Foreign ministers will continue with the more contentious issues on Tuesday (Photo: EUobserver)

EU foreign ministers meeting today (17 May) in Brussels appear to have settled on an institutional solution that is as close as possible to the current situation on member states running the day-to-day affairs of the EU.

Following much debate both while the draft EU Constitution was being drawn up and afterwards, governments seem to have decided it is easiest to stick with the system where one country runs the EU for a period of six months.

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To be known now as 'team presidencies', three countries will take on the overall responsibility for 18 months between them.

A council source said ministers agreed the solution as it would provide the most "coherence and cohesion" and allow the new EU foreign minister and the chairman of the European Council, to work consistently together with the leading country for six months.

The other ideas put forward by the Irish Presidency as possible solutions, such as all three countries presiding simultaneously over the EU for 18 months, were dismissed by the majority of ministers as being too complicated.

It also means that countries still have their chance at the helm of the EU – even though they will no longer be responsible for the external representation of the EU, as they are now.

Maintaining some sort of rotation was extremely important to smaller EU countries.

Disagreement over money

EU foreign ministers also discussed budgetary issues, the right of the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over the excessive deficit procedure and how to annexe the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.

The strongest disagreement remains over control of the EU purse-strings.

"A consensus has not been found", said Klaus Hänsch, the European Parliament's representative in the negotiations.

Mr Hänsch went on to criticise the UK's position which was the country most strongly pushing for member states to have the last say over the EU budget.

"This is not acceptable to the European Parliament", he said.

The Irish Presidency is to put forward another option in the coming days, said diplomats.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is still pushing to keep member states' veto on the multi-annual budget.

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