It’s not just closed roads and pastizzi breaks!
If you didn’t know that Malta’s currently chairing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, then you must be living under a rock. Please send me your address so I can join you… For the rest of us, it’s something we’re aware of and has affected us in one way or another.
But what exactly is this presidency, anyway?
Every six months, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates among the 28 EU member states. This means that every country that is a member state of the European Union gets to chair meetings at every level of the Council.
Following the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, the member states holding the presidency work closely in trios (the current one is made of the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta) to set long-term goals and a common agenda to be addressed by the Council over an 18-month period. Among the things discussed in the Council are jobs, growth and competitiveness, energy and climate policies, as well as freedom, security and justice.
What is this Council you speak of?
The Council is made up of government ministers from each EU member state. These ministers meet to discuss, amend and adopt new laws, as well as coordinate policies. Moreover, the ministers then have the authority to commit their respective governments to what is agreed.
N.B: The Council of the EU – which is what’s currently taking place in Malta – is not the same as the European Council (where EU leaders meet to set the board direction of EU policy-making) and the Council of Europe (which is not even part of the European Union).
What are the presidency’s aims?
The key tasks of the EU member state leading the Council are to plan and chair the meetings of the ministers and working groups of civil servants so they can discuss EU legislation in the Council. Moreover, the presidency (i.e. the member state that is chairing the Council) is also there to represent the Council in relations with the Commission and the EU parliament, and to negotiate on behalf of the Council to reach agreements on legislative files with other EU institutions.
N.B. In the case of foreign affairs, it’s still the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy that plans and chairs meetings for the Council.
What’s being discussed in Malta?
Loads of things! During Malta’s presidency, the Council will be going over six main areas, which are migration, the single market, security, social inclusion, Europe’s neighbourhood and the maritime sector.