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Countries who take over the EU Presidency in the second half of the year always complain that they have drawn the short straw.

Sandwiched between the Summer holidays and the Christmas break, these Presidencies like to point out that they only have a three month window – September to end November – to make realistic progress on the dossiers.

Lithuania’s task is made even harder given the need to finalise what is on the table before the EU elections in May next year, with the legislative slowdown due to kick in from March.

For a first-time Presidency and a small country, this is no easy task.

Such countries are often eager to succeed during their time in the EU limelight, but there is a danger that Lithuania could be overwhelmed, both in terms of the sheer number of dossiers and the political struggles within the Council.

Indeed, Presidency or no, there is no doubt who still calls the shots.

If turning the EU around is akin to turning round an oil tanker, then Chancellor Merkel is very much on the bridge, steering the EU through troubled waters.

Moreover, with Lithuania not a member of the Eurozone, it will not be able to influence the engine-room of fiscal and monetary integration which is still largely driven by France and Germany and remains the headline issue for the Eurozone at least, if not the EU as a whole.

In past times it used to be said that “all eyes are on the Presidency” – not anymore.

With the new roles for President Van Rompuy and Commissioner Ashton, and the Eurozone taking centre stage, rotating Presidencies are now reduced to that of policy mandarins, digging into details and marrying the interests of the divergent Member States.

Important, undoubtedly. But headline-grabbing? Absolutely not.

Maybe this suits Lithuania just fine.

– Rob

To see Grayling’s full preview of the Lithuanian Presidency, click here!


Green is the colour...or is it?

Blessed with offices with a park-view, it has been hard not to notice the veritable explosion that has taken place over the last ten days: spring has finally come to Brussels!

What was grey and brown has once more become green.

And how fitting that greening is such a topical matter in Brussels at the moment.

In a rare display of harmony, Belgium and the European Union seem to keep the same pace with each other.

Unfortunately, the sun does not shine as radiantly on the policy side of things as on Brussels’ trees, quite the contrary; dark clouds are gathering on the horizon.

The first thing that springs to mind are the ongoing negotiations on the CAP reform in both Parliament and Council, where the Commission’s greening proposals have come to form a divide between MEPs and delegations.

While decision-makers in principle welcome the measures, opinions vary on the modalities and character of the Commission’s proposal.

After all, tying 30%of the Direct Payments to farmers for  greening measures was bound to cause a stir…

Speaking of stirs, the negotiations on the future EU budget finally seem to have hit a nerve for some Member States. Naturally, we are referring to last week’s GAC meeting ,during which delegations let off some steam concerning spending obligations.

Once again, the green was the main focus of discussions, although a different kind of green: several net-paying Member States demanded the budget be cut by €100 bn. Sometimes too much green makes you see red, says the Lobby.

Surely, the negotiations on the CAP and the budget will be lengthy (did I hear someone say delayed?) and keep on stirring emotions.

In the meantime we will keep enjoying the park view.

– Tobias

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