Skip to content .

Service navigation

Main Navigation


Further information

Link to opens in a new window


About the presidency

What does it mean: "to preside over the European Union"?

The term "the Presidency of the EU" refers to the member state presiding over the Council of the European Union for a period of six months. This member state also chairs the meetings of the European Council. Therefore, the member state legally does not preside over the entire European Union, but only over one of its institutions – the Council of the European Union.

In order to preside successfully, the principles of neutrality and impartiality must be observed. The goal of the Presidency is to achieve progress in the work of the European Union. The manner of work is set accordingly and focuses primarily on seeking compromise solutions among member states, taking into account both the positions of the European Commission and the European Parliament. In chairing discussions, the presiding country seeks to abstain from favouring partial interests; however, it retains the so-called "power of the pen" and has the authorisation to call meetings, draw up meeting agendas, chair them and propose conclusions.


What are the duties of the Presidency?

The Presidency carries out three principal tasks during its term:

a) Chairs the work of all the configurations of the Council of the EU and the European Council.

Among other things, the Presidency prepares, calls and chairs Council meetings at all levels including working groups (some 250), and the sessions of the Council of Ministers and of the European Council. The country presiding over the working groups is responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the Council's work at all sessions.

The Presidency coordinates the opposing interests of member states, acts as a mediator, draws up compromise proposals and brokers agreements to solve problems and achieving progress in individual matters. It signs approved legal acts and carries the political responsibility for all adopted decisions. It is therefore important that it acts as a neutral mediator in representing European interests and avoids promoting national priorities as far as possible.

According to previous experience, the Presidency in the six months of its term presides over two sessions of the European Council, approximately 40 ministerial meetings, 60 sessions of the Permanent Representatives Committee I and II (Coreper I and Coreper II), and approximately 2,000 sessions of working groups and various committees. In addition to organising and chairing a number of formal sessions, the Presidency also undertakes many informal actions such as lobbying, negotiating and attending informal meetings with individual member states, groups of countries and European institutions.

In addition to the formal part of the Presidency in meetings in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, informal meetings, in accordance with the established practice, are organised in the presiding country, including informal sessions of various configurations of the Council, a number of ministerial conferences and other events (recent Presidencies have organised approximately 150–200 such events).


b) Represents the Council of the EU in relation to other EU institutions.

The country presiding over the Council of the EU represents this institution in relation to other EU institutions. Cooperation with the European Parliament and the European Commission is of special significance.

Cooperation with the European Parliament is intensive and demanding. At the beginning and end of the Presidency, the Prime Minister of the presiding country presents the programme for the Presidency and a final report at a plenary session of the European Parliament. He also speaks before the European Parliament after sessions of the European Council. The ministers of the presiding country speak before the committees of the European Parliament during the Presidency. Good relations with the European Parliament are important, because its role as a co-legislator is strengthening. When negotiating with the European Parliament in the process of co-decision, Council is represented by the presiding country. Since the European Parliament is a political institution, good collaboration at the political level is very important.

With regard to the First Pillar, the European Commission has the exclusive right to initiate legislative proposals, which is why the agenda of the Council relies heavily on the dynamics of work. The European Commission also has great expertise, so good relations with the Commission and its services are paramount for a successful Presidency.


c) Represents the European Union in the international community.

The Maastricht Treaty gave presiding countries authority in the field of common foreign and security policy. The Presidency represents the European Union in these matters and is responsible for carrying out the decisions adopted in keeping with the policy in question. Within these competences it also expresses the position of the European Union in international organisations and at international conferences. The Presidency is responsible for political dialogue with countries, international organisations and regional groups.

In this respect, the presiding country, especially the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, carry great political responsibility and have many obligations. The Presidency is the 'face and voice' of all twenty-seven member states and represents common interests in the international arena. It must cooperate with the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and with the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy.


What are the goals of the presidency?

The goals are set by each individual presiding country separately, but fundamentally the common goal of all presiding countries is to achieve the greatest possible progress in legislative work of the EU Council.

Generally, the goal of the Presidency is to lead the Council in a way that assures a constructive and effective workflow at the sessions of all configurations of the Council of the EU and the European Council. At the same time, the Presidency coordinates the opposing interests of member states and acts as an impartial mediator drawing up and brokering compromise proposals.


To what extent may the presiding country assert its own interests?

The Presidency must act impartially and neutrally and may not favour its own or the interests of another member states, and it must pursue common European goals. The presidency is not an opportunity for the presiding country to bring its own specific national interests to the fore as this would cost it its credibility. All successful presidencies concentrated on European interests rather than the presiding country’s own. A successful presidency is a long-term national interest of a country, which thus earns its respect in relation to of other EU members, as well as in the rest of Europe and the world.

Despite the declared neutrality, each presiding country has a chance to shape its own political dimension which is mainly reflected in the agenda and timeline of dealing with priority issues and in the political tone of the presidency.


Which countries will preside over the EU in the coming years?

The list of presiding countries from 2007 to 2020:


Year first half second half
2007 Germany Portugal
2008 Slovenia France
2009 Czech Republic Sweden
2010 Spain Belgium
2011 Hungary Poland
2012 Denmark Cyprus
2013 Ireland Lithuania
2014 Greece Italy
2015 Latvia Luxembourg
2016 the Netherlands Slovakia
2017 Malta United Kingdom
2018 Estonia Bulgaria
2019 Austria Romania
2020 Finland  



Can a member state renounce the Presidency because it is demanding or too costly?

A member state cannot renounce the Presidency; however, it can influence the order in which countries preside. If a country deems that the demands and steep costs of the Presidency prevent it from carrying out the tasks well, it can influence the rotation before the list is finalised and approved at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC).

The EU Presidency is a legal obligation introduced by the Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community, the so-called Treaty of Rome of 1957. This treaty stipulates that member states alternately take on the Presidency of the Council of Ministers for a period of six months, according to an order of rotation unanimously agreed by the Council of Ministers. From the time it was established until the time the European Community had twelve members, this meant that the order of rotation was alphabetical in the language of each member state. In order to prevent the same country presiding twice in a row in the same six-month term, a system of two six-year cycles was established so that each member state presided in the first and second half-year term.

After the enlargement to 15 countries in 1995 a new system of rotation was introduced to ensure that each Troika comprising the past, present and future Presidency always included at least one of the large member states. To achieve this, the Netherlands was defined as a large state. The countries were divided into two groups: large and small countries in each group in alphabetical order, with the order of rotation established so that each large country would be followed by two small ones.

During preparations for the last great enlargement, the Secretariat General of the EU Council was already drafting possible versions of the order of rotation to take into account the principles of alphabetical rotation and the division into large and small member states. Since the Union of 27 member states would only include seven large countries, the old rotation system of one large country in three consecutive presidencies would no longer be possible. In 2007 a list of future presiding countries was prepared which considers the past order of rotation and the criteria of size and geographical location in such a way that each group contains one large, one medium-sized and one small country.



Accessibility     . Print     .

Date: 28.12.2007