1. What is the Presidency?
The concept of the Presidency represents the execution of the function always by one of the EU member states for six months so that all the member states alternate. During the execution of the Presidency, every given country is responsible for the overall functioning of the Council and all its working groups.
The Presidency may be understood as one of the possible tools for representing the national interests of the EU member states and for influencing the running of the whole Union. For the presiding country, it is simultaneously an enormous opportunity to present itself before the other EU states. On the other hand, the Presidency is one of the most demanding tasks arising from EU membership.
The Czech Republic will execute the Presidency in the first half of 2009, preceded by France’s Presidency and followed by Sweden’s.
The actual preparation for assuring the Presidency is usually begun approximately two years before executing the Presidency, namely both on the domestic level and on the Union level in the form of cooperation with the preceding presiding countries and with the General Secretary of the Council.
2. What are the functions of the Presidency?
Administration and steering of the work of the Council
Administration and steering of the Council is a traditional function of the Presidency. For the period of its mandate, the presiding state guides the work of the entire Council in all its forms (9 formations of the Council) including the entire system of committees (around 300; under the main jurisdiction of the MEYS 6, joint jurisdiction 1).
Identifying political priorities
The question of political priorities is related to the ability and opportunity of the Presidency to identify and implement the given themes. In this area, continuity with the previous Presidencies must be maintained and at the same time new priorities should reflect the current international-political circumstances. Last but not least, the member state has the possibility to present its national interests to a reasonable degree.
Every state approaches the function of negotiator with more or less clear national priorities. For attaining compromise, the presiding state utilises a wide range of negotiating instruments, e.g. the level of formality of the session, interrupting meetings, individual discussions.
Representation of the Council of the EU
The presiding country represents the Council inside the Union with respect to other institutions and at the same time represents the whole EU outside.
3. What are the specific tasks of the Presidency?
The specific tasks to be executed by the presiding country are primarily:
To identify the priorities of the Presidency in concert with the preceding and following Presidencies as well as with the institutions of the EU;
- To prepare the programmes for and chairing the individual meetings of the Councils (always chaired by the Minister of the relevant ministry), the preparatory bodies – COREPER (chaired by the permanent representative for the EU) and working groups (chaired by the relevant expert) including the preparation of documents and background materials (at this point approximately 2,000 meetings are planned for the six months, of which roughly 1,800 are working groups) – most meetings take place in Brussels, some in Luxemburg; chiefly only informal meetings of the Council and special summits take place in the presiding country;
- To communicate and coordinate the decision-making process with the EC, EP and other institutions and organs of the EU (Committee of the Regions and European Economic and Social Committee);
- To endeavour to form generally acceptable compromises and conclusions;
- To communicate with all the member states through government representatives (the so-called Tour d´Europe) with the aim of presenting the plans of the Presidency and gaining orientation feedback of the relevant country on the plan of the Presidency as well as through its consulates in the member countries;
- To assure, in cooperation with the President of the EC and with the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, contact of the EU with third countries and international organisations as well as to present the stances of the EU at international conferences.
The importance of contacts of the presiding country with non-governmental organisations and opinion platforms, which have gradually been significantly defining themselves, partially even the form of public demonstrations and disorder in relation to international organisations including the EU, has recently been on the increase.
4. Stages of the Presidency of the CR
1. Preparatory Stage
a) initial (January 2005 – September 2006)
- Assessment of the experience of other member states with the Presidency; involvement of the representative of the CR in the team for the preparation of the Presidency of Austria
b) systematic (October 2006 – December 2008)
- Proposal of the framework timetable and more detailed budget for assuring the preparation and execution of the Presidency
- Establishment of the domestic coordination mechanism for the preparation and execution of the Presidency
- Decision on the personnel assuring provision of the preparation and execution of the Presidency, including the prospective of strengthening the Permanent Representation of the CR in Brussels and selected embassies of the CR in EU member countries, or individual ministries and security units in the CR
- Commencement of the targeted training of the personnel assuring the execution of the Presidency
- Preparation of the common programme of the team presidency, including the priorities of the Czech Republic
- Finalisation of the organisational and security provisions of the Presidency
- Decision on the way of presenting the Presidency within the CR as well as abroad
2. Executive Stage (January 2009 – June 2009)
- The execution of the Presidency itself
3. Assessment Stage (July 2009 – June 2010)
- Assessing the execution of the Presidency
- Providing continuity with the following Presidency (Spain, Belgium, Hungary)
- Processing the documentation of the Presidency, completing the activities initiated during the execution of the function of the Presidency
4. Conclusion of the Activity of the Provisional Structures
- Coordination mechanism
- Personnel and technical provision