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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!

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