From 1 July to 31 December 2014, Italy is in charge of the presidency of the Council of the European Union; Italy has held the presidency 11 times in the history of the Union, which started on 25 March 1957 with the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
The presidency of the EU Council.
The Council of the European Union, also known as EU Council, is the institution that represents the governments of the member states. It negotiates and adopts new EU legislation together with the Parliament, adapts it when necessary, and coordinates policies. The Council is a single legal entity that meets in 10 different “configurations” depending on the subject to be discussed. Hence, the Ministers for the Environment meet in the Environment Council, the Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs meet in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and so on for all sectors.
The presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates amongst member states every six months according to a pre-set order. The first semester starts on 1 January and ends at the end of June. The second semester starts on 1 July and ends on 31 December.
How does it work and what tasks does it carry out?
During the six-month term, Italy is in charge of preparing, coordinating and chairing the work of the Council; it shall act as an honest broker in order to promote legislative decisions and policy initiatives, and to negotiate with member states.
The presidency has two main tasks:
a) planning and chairing the meetings of the Council and its preparatory bodies. The presidency is in charge of the agenda of the Council and of chairing a number of meetings: two meetings of the European Council, the meetings of the Councils of Ministers (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council), the meetings of its preparatory bodies, several informal ministerial meetings, summits and other meetings between the EU and third countries as well as many other sector specific events;
b) representing the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, especially with the Commission and the European Parliament. Its task is to try and reach agreement on legislative files through trialogues, informal negotiation meetings and Conciliation Committee meetings.
The presidency works in close cooperation with the President of the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs; it supports their work and sometimes it is asked to carry out certain tasks on behalf of the High Representative, such as representing the Foreign Affairs Council before the European Parliament or chairing the Foreign Affairs Council when it debates on trade policy issues.
The presidency and the European Parliament.
In January and July each year, the member state in charge of the presidency presents its six-month programme to the European Parliament. In June and December, when the six-month term expires, the Head of State or Government presents the work carried out and submits to the European Parliament a report on the last meeting of the European Council. Moreover, during the six months of presidency, the ministers report to the European Parliament about the development of their work in their relevant fields.
The rotating presidency.
After the Greek presidency (January - June 2014), Italy is in charge of the following six-month period. The rotation of the presidency takes place every six months according to a pre-set order. Below is the current order for the six-month rotation of the presidency until 2020:
Italy: July-December 2014
Latvia: January-June 2015
Luxembourg: July-December 2015
Netherlands: January-June 2016
Slovakia: July-December 2016
Malta: January-June 2017
United Kingdom: July-December 2017
Estonia: January-June 2018
Bulgaria: July-December 2018
Austria: January-June 2019
Romania: July-December 2019
Finland: January-June 2020