Thursday

19th Sep 2019

EU presidency trio lays claim to political power

Leaders of the countries next in line to take on the day-to-day running of the European Union have made it clear that they do not wish to be sidelined by any future EU president.

Gathered in Brussels last week to present a common logo for 18 months of co-operation beginning in January, the prime ministers of Spain, Belgium and Hungary were keen to emphasize the importance of "institutional balance" - an oblique way of saying they do not wish to get elbowed out of the political picture by a powerful new president of the European Council, a post created by the almost-ratified Lisbon Treaty.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will lay down the foundations for how the system will work in the future (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"The future of Europe does not depend on one person ...the future of Europe depends on institutions," said Belgian leader Herman Van Rompuy.

His Hungarian counterpart Gordon Bajnai said "more time" is needed to "decide the role of the president and his relation to the rotating president." He also said that one of the three prerequisites for the future president should be that the person "is someone who is ready to live with the already existing institutions of Europe."

With the Lisbon Treaty now likely to come into place within the coming few months, focus has turned to the uncertainties contained in the document.

One of these includes how the six-month rotating presidencies and the national leaders of the moment will rub along with the permanent president.

While the president, who can hold office for up to five years, is supposed to drive forward the political agenda of the EU through the regular meetings of EU leaders, the rotating presidency will manage the daily policy-making including chairing monthly ministerial meetings in all areas, bar foreign policy. The set-up, with its undefined hierarchy, could lead to damaging turf wars.

The problem of the proliferation of chiefs with potentially overlapping job descriptions under the Lisbon Treaty - it also introduces a beefed up foreign policy post - has practical implications too, such as who will take part in EU summits with third countries. EU attendance at these events is often a crowded affair, a problem the union's new set of rules is supposed to fix.

Who will be the first president of the European Council is still unclear, with member states unsure about whether they want a powerful global figure, or someone with a more administrative job description. The EU parliament will discuss the role of the new president on 11 November, while the appointment itself is expected to be decided at an extraordinary summit later this month.

The type of person who gets the job is set to strongly influence how the EU will make a go of the new Lisbon Treaty system - a fact acknowledged by the Hungarian leader.

Mr Bajnai said it was the three countries' "noble task" to "prove it is a better solution."

Spain, which is likely to be the first country to operate a presidency under the Lisbon Treaty beginning on 1 January, will face the challenge of setting the terms for how successive countries manage the relationship between the national leader and the EU president.

A still greater challenge to the system is likely to come when one of the most powerful EU countries, Britain, France or Germany hold the rotating presidency. But this is not foreseen until 2017.

The new European Commission: what's next?

Informal interviews with von der Leyen, hearings with parliamentary committees, and votes in the EU parliament and Council await the 26 candidates.

Investigation

US billionaires funding EU culture war

Conservative US billionaires, some with links to Trump, are paying anti-abortion lobbyists in Europe tens of millions of dollars to shape policy and law.

Investigation

The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

News in Brief

  1. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  2. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving
  3. Trump's UK ambassador stirs up anti-EU feeling
  4. Brexit chaos is lesson to other EU states, ECB governor says
  5. EU condemns Israel's latest land grab
  6. Scotland to keep some laws aligned with EU after Brexit
  7. Spain to hold fresh election in November
  8. Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  2. A new Commission for the one percent
  3. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  4. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  5. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  6. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  7. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission
  8. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us