Meeting of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon on 18-19 October 2007
For the first time since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (1 December 2009), Italy holds the presidency of the EU Council. The Treaty of Lisbon modified the institutional framework, the functioning of the EU and established two new institutional subjects:
• The permanent President of the European Council. The European Council is made up of the Heads of State or Government of the member states; it defines the direction and the general political priorities of the EU. The current President is Herman Van Rompuy whose term of office expires on 30 November 2014.
• The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy coordinates the foreign policy of the European Union and chairs the Foreign Affairs Council which is the only configuration of the Council not to be chaired by the President of the EU Council, except when common commercial policy issues are discussed. Starting from 1 December 2009, this role has been held by Baroness Catherine Ashton. About 20 of the working parties of the Foreign Affairs Council are chaired by a permanent president appointed by the High Representative. Moreover, the Treaty of Lisbon formalised the already existing practice of collaboration among the rotating presidencies; in fact, to achieve continuity in the work of the Council, the member states holding the presidency work together closely in groups of three.