The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among the 28 Member States every six months. Ireland will hold the Presidency for the 7th time from January to June 2013. The presiding Member State advances the Union’s ongoing work agenda, and has an opportunity to shape and influence EU policy and legislation. The Presidency also represents the Council in its dealings with other EU Institutions.
The Presidency plans and chairs most meetings of the Council of the EU, which will be chaired by Irish Ministers for the first half of 2013. These Ministerial meetings are prepared by over 150 official-level committees and preparatory bodies, which will also be chaired by Irish officials.
The Presidency sets out its own programme and priorities for its six month term. These provide the context within which the Presidency sets the agenda for Council meetings. The Presidency seeks to deliver results, which often means putting forward compromise proposals and negotiating agreements. To achieve this, the Presidency must act as an honest, impartial broker.
The Presidency also represents the Council in its dealings with the other EU Institutions, particularly the Commission and the Parliament.
The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, has changed the role of the Presidency in a number of ways. It created two new institutional actors:
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, and represents the EU in international organisations (both roles which previously fell to the Foreign Minister of the Presidency). The High Representative is supported by the European External Action Service. Baroness Catherine Ashton is the current High Representative.
It enhanced the influence of the European Parliament. The Parliament has new law-making powers, and now decides on the vast majority of EU legislation, jointly with the Council of Ministers, under the ordinary legislative procedure. Parliament also has the last say on the EU budget.
So Ireland as Presidency will attach great importance to working closely and constructively with the Parliament.
The Lisbon Treaty “institutionalised” the so-called Trio Presidency, under which three successive Presidencies work together to develop an 18 month political programme. This ensures a high level of consistency and coordination in the work of the EU. Ireland is part of a Trio programme with Lithuania and Greece, spanning the period from January 2013-June 2014.
The Taoiseach, Ministers and all Government Departments are deeply involved in the Irish Presidency. The Department of the Taoiseach takes the lead in planning and preparing the Presidency, working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is in charge of Presidency logistics. The Department of the Taoiseach coordinates with all Government Departments and with the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels to decide the political programme and priorities for the Presidency. Individual Government Departments will organise a wide range of meetings and events during the Presidency. Irish Embassies will also play an important role, projecting the priorities and achievements of the Irish Presidency overseas.