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The New Presidency of the European Council in Action

Preparing for the CEU exam, and trying to answer the question about the impetus for the new European Council Presidency, I first started to think about the Belgium Presidency of the Council of the European Union that began on 1 July 2010 and is paving the way for the Hungarian Presidency from 1 January to 30 June 2011. Pursuant to the Belgian Presidency programme (the team Presidency’s Programme), the Belgian Government decided to consult civil society in order to bring the European construction closer to its citizens and make it more tangible, I thought that the impetus could be the civil society who was consulted in the first phase via the internet forum “You and Europe” on five themes:

• Economy, employment and social policy;

• Health, environment and energy;

• Justice and security;

• Citizenship, culture and education;

• Europe in the world.

The second phase was devoted to the National Advisory Councils, including at the level of the Communities and the Regions, were given the opportunity to put their expectations and priorities for the Belgian Presidency to the government.

The third step consisted of a series of thematical seminars on seven themes:

• The financial-economic crisis;

• Energy, environment and climate change;

• Citizenship, culture and education;

• Justice, security and judicial cooperation;

• Conflict prevention and management Europe and the challenges in terms of development cooperation;

• Expansion, neighbourhood policy and European borders;

• The Lisbon Strategy.

These seminars, inter alia, offered an opportunity for the NGOs to express their concerns and formulate policy suggestions.

The fourth phase was organized to satisfy the wish of civil society to engage in dialogue with the political authorities.

The Presidency also lies on the legacy programme, consisting of 5 theme clusters:

1)      Combating the economic crisis and promoting economic and financial modernization;

2)      Combating global warming and the environmental aspects in the broader sense;

3)      Expansion of the EU;

4)      Further strengthening of the social dimension in the EU;

1)      Implementation of the Stockholm Programme’s action plan for justice and home affairs, asylum and migration.

Belgium has also promised to pay particular attention to an important horizontal theme – the implementation and correct application of the new rules of the Treaty of Lisbon, and to promote a smooth working relationship between the President of the European Council, the rotating Presidency, the Commission and the High Representative.

Of course, an impetus comes from the previous Spanish Presidency – Belgium is completing the regulation of the European Citizens’ Initiative, and continuing advancement of the negotiations for the accession of the EU to the ECHR.

But then I started to think that can it be as simple as that? Perhaps the answer to the question should be connected with the new rules on Council Presidency in the Lisbon Treaty, according to which rules the President of the European Council – a different EU institution – is elected. The Council that prior to the Lisbon Treaty was only setting the guidelines for the EU, is now defining the EU’s directions and priorities, and its President chairs and drives forward the European Council’s work; ensures preparation and continuity of the European Council’s work in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the General Affairs Council; presents a report to the European Parliament after each European Council meeting; ensures external representation of the EU on issues under the CFSP. But what could be the impetus for the new European Council President?

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