Step 5. The Council Presidency

The Council Presidency used to be mainly connected to the European Council, which, before the Lisbon Treaty, did not have a permanent presidency. After the Lisbon Treaty however, the Presidency refers only to the Council and its structure. Presidency is carried out by a so-called trio – three countries performing this role through 18 months, divided into three 6-month periods. Countries constituting the trio adopt a common programme and work together towards its realisation. Countries composing the trio are usually diverse and reflect different interests in the EU, therefore it is not rare that the northern countries are paired with the southern one, newer members with older members, Eurozone countries with those not having the common currency.

As already mentioned, the Presidency pertains to the Council and therefore all its configurations (with the notable exception of the Foreign Affairs Council) are chaired by a representative of the country holding the Presidency. This applies to the Council preparatory bodies as well. Due to this fact, the Presidency is a serious administrative challenge for the Member States.

The main task of the Presidency is to ensure smooth proceedings of the Council work and following the legislative agenda set by the European Commission. It may, however, be necessary for the Presidency to deal with unexpected events or crises erupting in the EU and beyond. As each Presidency sets its priorities, it might also be a good opportunity to pursue some nationally defined goals. As a rule of thumb, 80% of issues are connected to the legislative agenda, 15% to dealing with various contingencies and only 5% to national agenda.

Roles of the Presidency





Political Leader

Self-interest focused

Leadership Type

Task-oriented leadership

Group-oriented leadership

Transfromational leadership

Traditional, egoistic, national


·       Planning meetings

·       External representation

·       Arranging rooms

·       Drafting agendas for the meetings

·       Chairing meetings

·       Preparing and distributing documents

·       Mapping various aspects of a topic

·       Separating the issues, devising strategies for moving forward

·       Carrying out background studies

·       Sounding out Member States

·       Creating a good atmosphere

·       Creating understanding for others’ problems

·       Identifying mainstreams

·       Identifying bargains and trade-offs

·       Formulating compromises

·       Serving group processes

·       Putting current decisions in a long-term perspective of EU Challenges

·       Steering the debate in specific directions

·       Convincing delegations to abandon short-term interests


·       Short term orientation on national goals and values

·       Influencing the political agenda by adding or removing topics


Efficiency in the search for common position

Fairness in the search for common position

Moving towards long-term objectives

Preventing high political costs at the national level

Source: Schout Adriaan, Vanhoonacker Sophie. 2006. Evaluating Presidencies of the Council of the EU: Revisiting Nice. „Journal of Common Market Studies”. 44(5). p. 1055.