While EU news is focussing on candidates for the new top jobs created by the Treaty of Lisbon, The Lobby goes back to basics and lists the seven things you should know about the upcoming President of the European Council.
- He will chair the European Council (aka European Summit) that becomes an official EU body with Lisbon. This body will gather all EU Heads of State or Government at least twice every six months – with the main task of giving a political direction to the EU.
- He will act as a supreme deal breaker in the horse-trading taking place when the EU’s top leaders discuss contentious issues and will have to ensure continuity when they establish the EU’s political priorities.
- He will not chair the Council (aka the Council of Ministers) meetings; hence the 6-month rotating Presidency system among Member States remains broadly unaffected, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council which will be chaired by the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
- He will be elected by Heads of State by qualified majority (though unanimity would be highly preferable) and will be in office for 2.5 years, renewable once.
- He will not replace the European Commission President, but will probably cast a shadow over him given the profile of the job, his official function of external representation of the EU, and the added complexity this brings to the EU structure.
- He will not have any voting rights in the European Council, and nor for that matter will the Commission President who is also a member of the body.
- He will not be the President of Europe, his functions will be merely administrative, and his actions will no doubt be restrained by the mandate he receives or doesn’t receive from the Heads of State.
Finally, it looks like he will not be a “she” bearing in mind the absence of women among the currently most plausible candidates. For his part, Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, has called for the European Council to choose a woman ideally from an eastern European country.