The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among Member States every six months. In the first half of 2012, Denmark will hold the Presidency for the 7th time and will thus guide the work among the Member States. When holding the rotating Presidency, the presiding Member State to some extent gets the chance to influence the EU agenda, provide impetus to the EU system and strengthen public support for the EU in the Member States.
The tasks of the EU Presidency
The Presidency has two main tasks:
The first is to plan and chair the meetings in the Council of the EU and underlying bodies. It is the responsibility of the Presidency to move the work of the Council forward and create results, to ensure cooperation among Member States and formulate compromise proposals that can gather support. To do this, the Presidency must act in its capacity of an honest and neutral broker.
Secondly, the Presidency represents the Council in its dealings with the other EU institutions, not least the Commission and the European Parliament. This entails, among other things, that the Presidency is the representative of the 27 Member States in negotiations with the Commission and the European Parliament.
Changes with the Lisbon Treaty
Since the last Danish Presidency in 2002, the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force and this has changed the role of the Presidency in a number of instances.
Firstly, the Treaty has established new institutional actors:
Herman Van Rompuy leads the work in the European Council and Catherine Ashton organises the work of EU foreign policy in the Council’s configuration for foreign affairs. Denmark will be in charge of all other council configurations and will work closely with both Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton.
Secondly, Denmark is now part of the so-called Trio Presidency (together with Poland and Cyprus), where three consecutive Presidencies work together to craft a political programme for an 18 months’ period in order to ensure a higher degree of consistency and coordination in the work of the EU.
Thirdly, the European Parliament now has a more influential role as co-legislator and the cooperation with the Parliament will be an important task during the Danish Presidency.
Apart for the Trio Presidency Programme, each rotating Presidency formulates its own work programme and priorities. As President of the Council, Denmark will in general be evaluated on whether we chair the work in an open and professional manner, whether we are a neutral and efficient broker that creates results, and whether we ensure close cooperation with the other EU institutions, the press, organisations/NGOs and the general public.
The organisation of the Danish EU Presidency
The Danish Presidency is undertaken by the entire Danish Government and all relevant ministries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates the work of the Presidency, both in relation to the political programme and priorities for the Presidency, but also in areas such as logistics and communication – in close cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, other ministries and the Permanent Representation to the European Union, which plays a key role during the Presidency.
Danish embassies will also be involved in the Presidency. Besides contributing to the central coordination of activities, the individual ministries will themselves be responsible for undertaking their own activities during the Presidency.
Cooperation with other institutions and the new actors
The EU Presidency is a major task for a Member State. The coordination of activities and the cooperation with the permanent EU institutions, e.g. the European Parliament and the European Commission, are an undeviating and important task. The cooperation consists both of ongoing coordination and participation in negotiations on behalf of the Council of the EU. Being present in the various committees and plenary debates of the European Parliament will also constitute a considerable part of the cooperation.
Furthermore, there is close coordination between the Danish Presidency and the Permanent President of the European Council along with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The Presidency supports the two new actors and their work and can in some cases be requested to perform certain duties for the High Representative.
The Danish Presidency in 2002 and previous Presidencies
Denmark became a member of the European Union on 1 January 1973. Denmark has held the Presidency in the following periods: 1973 (second half), 1978 (first half), 1982 (second half), 1987 (second half), 1993 (first half) and latest in the second half of 2002.
The latest Presidency in 2002 was considered a great success not least due to the successful negotiations on EU enlargement which led to an agreement on admission of ten new Member States from mainly the Baltic region and Eastern Europe – the biggest enlargement in the history of the European Union. Other focus areas during the 2002 Presidency were the EU’s global responsibility, the Single Market, sustainable development and food safety in Europe.