Monday

20th Feb 2017

Malta and Estonia could take over UK’s EU presidency

  • Who will take the six-month EU presidency from David Cameron (r)? Estonian PM Taavi Roivas (l) said he's ready if beed be. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Two of the smallest EU nations could take over the UK’s job of holding the rotating presidency of the union next year.

British prime minister David Cameron told fellow leaders on Tuesday (28 June) that they would have to wait for his successor to decide if the UK would still retain its role, sources familiar with talks said.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The British chairmanship had been scheduled for the second half of 2017.

Other leaders asked Cameron to let them know as soon as possible so that they could make alternative arrangements if need be.

Malta takes over the presidency at the start of next year and Estonia was due to follow Britain in 2018.

Malta would prefer Estonia’s chairmanship to be brought forward to cover the UK, a move that would also bring forward the rest of the EU presidency calendar.

Malta, with a population of some 450,000, has already tripled the staff at its EU diplomatic mission, from around 45 to 150, to cope with the tasks.

It also has made contractual and financial arrangements for the presidency, so it is less flexible to move its dates.

But Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat has said he is open to discussion about splitting the UK’s six months with Estonia, or about Malta doing a one-year stint.

There could be legal complications on splitting the six month-long period, however.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, which introduced a new trio system in 2009, three member states are meant to share each 18-month presidency period in terms of closer cooperation.

“It is simpler to change the rotation than the period,” an EU official said.

Presiding over a longer presidency would also mean extra costs for the member state in charge. An EU official said other member states might offer financial assistance is the situation arose.

Estonia, a Baltic country with a population of 1.3 million, has also started preparations for its presidency. They upped their staff from around 70 to 100, This will be doubled for the presidency period.

“We need to be flexible, prepare different scenarios. It would not be easy, but we will manage,” said an EU source. The source said that advancing Estonia’s term also posed “difficult” legal questions.

Estonian prime minister Taavi Roivas had on said Monday about the possible change of schedule: "We have thought about it. We’ve prepared for it and we'll cope with it."

The order of the presidencies is decided by member states, so the EU Council will have to make the final decision.

What is the council presidency?

The rotating presidency is in charge of pushing legislation or other decisions through the EU institutions.

It no longer speaks for the EU on the world stage, as presidencies used to prior to Lisbon, which also introduced the new posts of EU Council president and EU foreign relations chief.

It is also supposed to be a neutral broker.

But presidencies still set the agenda for legislative talks in sectoral areas, giving the host state ample opportunity to promote national interests.

The job usually requires years of preparation and the reshuffling of diplomatic staff in the country in charge. Malta, for instance, started its preparations in 2013 - four years before assuming the post.

“It’s not the end of the world if we don’t find out until September what the UK wants to do, but the sooner would be the better of course,” an EU source said.

Brexit vote irreversible, say EU leaders

EU leaders will not push Britain to begin the legal process to leave the EU, but they say there is no alternative after last week's referendum.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty