Council Composition

Council Composition in Europe

Composition and Presidency

Content about Council Composition from the publication “The ABC of European Union law” (2010, European Union) by Klaus-Dieter Borchardt.

The Council is made up of representatives of the governments of the Member States. All 27 Member States send one representative – as a rule, though not necessarily, the departmental or junior minister responsible for the matters under consideration. It is important that these representatives are empowered to act with binding effect on their governments. The very fact that governments may be represented in various ways obviously means that there are no permanent members of the Council; instead, the representatives sitting in the Council meet in nine different configurations depending on the subjects under discussion. These are: (1) ‘General Affairs and External Relations Council’: as the ‘General Affairs Council’, this Council coordinates the work of the Council in its various configurations and, together with the President of the European Council and the European Commission, prepares the European Council meetings; as the ‘Foreign Affairs Council’, it handles the EU’s action abroad in accordance with the strategic guidelines of the European Council and ensures that the EU’s action is consistent and coherent. The ‘General Affairs and External Relations Council’ is made up of the Foreign Ministers; its general affairs meetings are chaired by the ruling Presidency, and those on foreign affairs are chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. There are eight further Council formations attended by the Ministers from the Member States responsible for the areas concerned: (2) ‘Economic and Financial Affairs’ (commonly known as the Ecofin Council), (3) ‘Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs’, (4) ‘Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs’, (5) ‘Competitiveness’, (6) ‘Transport, Telecommunications and Energy’, (7) ‘Agriculture and Fisheries’, (8) ‘Environment’ and (9) ‘Education, Youth and Culture’.

Context of Council Composition in the European Union

The Presidency of the Council – with the exception of the Council of Foreign Ministers, which is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy- is held by each Member State in turn for six months. The order in which the office of President is held is decided unanimously by the Council. The Presidency changes hands on 1 January and 1 July each year (2008: Slovenia and France; 2009: the Czech Republic and Sweden; 2010: Spain and Belgium; 2011: Hungary and Poland; 2012: Denmark and Cyprus; 2013: Ireland and Lithuania, etc.). Given this fairly rapid ‘turnover’, each Presidency bases its action on a work programme agreed with the next two Presidencies and therefore valid for a period of 18 months (‘team Presidency’). The Presidency is mainly responsible for overall coordination of the work of the Council and the committees providing it with input. It is also important in political terms in that the Member State holding the EU Presidency enjoys an enhanced role on the world stage, and small Member States in particular are thus given an opportunity to rub shoulders with the ‘major players’ and make their mark in European politics.

More about Council Composition in the European Union

The seat of the Council is in Brussels.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *