Until 30 June 2021, Portugal will be presiding over the Council of the European Union for the fourth time.
The Portuguese début in these rotating presidencies took place in 1992, between January and June, under the motto “Towards the European Union”. The main achievements under that presidency consisted of the signing of the Treaty on European Union and of the Agreement on the European Economic Area.
In 2000, Portugal’s second presidency sought to define “Europe on the Brink of the 21st Century” and organised the first EU-Africa Summit. This presidency also promoted the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy and the celebration of the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The most recent rotating presidency, in 2007, defended a “stronger European Union for a better world”, and was marked by the Treaty of Lisbon, which reformed the way in which the EU operated. The Portuguese presidency also organised the first EU-Brazil Summit and the second EU-Africa Summit.
The Council in Summary
The Council of the European Union (EU) is the institution that represents the member states' governments. Informally known as the Council, it is where the ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies.
The Tasks of the Presidency
Planning and chairing meetings in the Council and its preparatory bodies.
The presidency chairs meetings of the different Council configurations (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council) and the Council's preparatory bodies, which include permanent committees such as the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), and working parties and committees dealing with very specific subjects.
The Council meetings take place in Brussels or Luxembourg; informal ministerial meetings are held in the member state holding the rotating presidency.
The presidency ensures that discussions are conducted properly and that the Council's rules of procedure and working methods are correctly applied, with a view to achieving an alignment and facilitating compromises between the opposing positions held by the member states.
Representing the Council in relations with the other EU institutions
The presidency represents the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, particularly with the Commission and the European Parliament. Its role is to try and reach an agreement on legislative files through trialogues, informal negotiation meetings and Conciliation Committee meetings.
The presidency works in close coordination with:
- the President of the European Council;
- the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The presidency supports their work and may sometimes be requested to perform certain duties for the high representative, such as representing the Foreign Affairs Council before the European Parliament or chairing the Foreign Affairs Council when it discusses joint commercial policy issues.
The most significant moments in the relationship between the presidency and the European Parliament are the presentation of the programme (at the beginning of the semester) and the presentation of the final report on activities and results (at the end).
The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every six months.
In order to ensure some continuity in terms of the programme, three member states work closely together in a system of “trios”; this system was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. The trio sets medium-term goals and prepares a joint agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over a period of 18 months. Based on this wider programme, each of the three countries prepares its own more detailed 6-month programme.
The current presidency trio is made up of Germany (second half of 2020), Portugal (first half of 2021) and Slovenia (second half of 2021).