The Presidency of the Council rotates between the member states on a 6-monthly basis. The country which holds the Presidency has a number of key responsibilities: it ensures that the Council runs smoothly, chairs and directs discussions, tries to reconcile divergent points of view and formulates proposals for compromises so that decisions can be taken. The Presidency also plays an important role in negotiations with the other institutions of the Union, especially the European Parliament which, like the Council, has to give its assent to most European legislation.
The Spanish Presidency, which ran from January to 1 July, coincided with the beginning of a new phase for the EU, with a renewed Parliament and Commission and a new treaty in effect since 1 December. With this outlook, Spain, Belgium and Hungary drew up a work programme for the 18-month period during which they will hold the Presidency in succession, according to the new regulations which apply in Europe.
It is the first ‘trio’ of presidencies to be formalised and perform its functions in accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon. The aim of this new procedure is to provide the work and initiatives of the EU with more continuity.
The work programme of the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies runs from January 2010 to June 2011 and is divided into two parts:
The first part contains the strategic framework, which places the work priorities in the current context and details the longer-term aims. It refers to:
- The revision of the Lisbon Strategy in order to build a Europe capable of mastering the crisis and promoting sustainable growth and employment, innovation and competitiveness.
- Better regulation and supervision of financial markets.
- A broader social agenda, paying special attention to the young, to gender equality and the fight against poverty.
- Implementation and possible review of the energy and climate package in the light of the results of the Copenhagen summit.
- Effective implementation of the Stockholm Programme, the new multi-annual programme for the development of the area of Freedom, Security and Justice and the development of a comprehensive European immigration and asylum policy.
- Increasing the effectiveness, coherence and visibility of the EU’s external action and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The second part constitutes the operational programme, which presents the specific issues on the EU Council’s agenda for the next 18 months.