Saturday, 28 June 2014

That pesky EU "Presidency" ... what is it?

The European Union (EU) is based on the various European Treaties agreed by the 28 member States.  The EU is now has legal personality so far as international law is concerned but it is NOT a State.  Contrary to what the media sometimes lead us to believe, there is not a President of the European Union.  (Whether "federalists" would like there to be is another matter).  It is perhaps unfortunate that the words "President" or "Presidency" appear quite frequently because the words are used in at least five contexts relating to the various EU Institutions.

EU Presidents – who does what?

Martin Schulz

European Parliament president – Martin Schulz

Term: January 2012 - July 2014
Elected by: Members of the European Parliament
  • Ensures parliamentary procedures are properly followed
  • Oversees Parliament's various activities and committees
  • Represents Parliament in all legal matters and in its international relations
  • Gives final assent to the EU budget
More on the President of the European Parliament's job
More on the European Parliament
Herman Van Rompuy

European Council president – Herman Van Rompuy

Term: June 2012 - November 2014
Appointed by: national leaders (heads of state or government of EU countries).
  • Leads the European Council's work in setting the EU's general political direction and priorities – in cooperation with the Commission
  • Promotes cohesion and consensus within the European Council
  • Represents the EU externally on foreign and security issues
More on the President of the European Council's job
More on the European Council
José Manuel Barroso

European Commission president – José Manuel Barroso

Term: January 2010 - December 2014
Appointed by: national leaders (heads of state or government of EU countries), with the approval of the European Parliament.
  • Gives political guidance to the Commission
  • Calls and chairs meetings of the college of the Commissioners
  • Leads the Commission's work in implementing EU policies
  • Takes part in G8 meetings
  • Contributes to major debates both in the European Parliament and between EU governments in the Council of the European Union
More on the Commission President's job
More on the European Commission
More on how Commissioners are appointed

Presidency of the Council of the EU

The Council of the EU - where national ministers discuss EU legislation - doesn't have a permanent, single-person president. Its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months. For example, representatives from the presidency country chair its meetings.
More about the Council of the EU

Court of Justice of the EU president – Vassilios Skouris

The Court of Justice of the EU also has a President - see the court's website.  The court's President is elected by the Judges of the Court for a renewable term of 3 years.

A new President of the Commission:

The next President of the European Commission seems likely to be Jean Claude Juncker - a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg.  If his nomination is approved by the European Parliament in mid-July, then Mr Juncker would assume office from January 2015.   See BBC EU backs Juncker to head Commission in blow to UK.

The BBC's headline is incorrect in that it is not the EU (as such) that has backed Mr Juncker.  His nomination is by the national leaders meeting as the European Council.  David Cameron and Mr Viktor Orban (Hungary) were against his appointment but 26 states supported Juncker's nomination.  Also, the nomination is not necessarily a blow to the UK at all even if it is a blow to David Cameron's pride.  The political problem is that Mr Juncker is seen as being unlikely to wish to concede easily to returning any powers now exercised by the EU to the member States.

Jean Claude Juncker

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