Spain now holds the presidency of the Council of the EU. It will work in close coordination with the other members of the trio – Belgium and Hungary, as well as with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the High Representative for the Foreign and Security Policy, Mrs. Catherine Ashton.
The Spanish presidency has four main priorities:
- Full and effective application of the Lisbon Treaty;
- Greater co-ordination of economic policies of Member States and the approval of the European strategy for sustainable growth for 2020;
- Reinforcement of the presence and influence of the European Union in the new world order;
- Placing European citizens at the centre of EU policy, with initiatives designed to develop their rights and freedoms.
The European Council has adopted two decisions that are based on the new institutional arrangements in the Treaty of Lisbon that entered into force yesterday.
The first decision provides that the Presidency of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration, wil be held by pre-established groups of three Member States for a period of 18 months. Each member of the group will in turn chair for a six-month period all configurations of the Council. The other members of the group will assist the Chair in all its responsibilities on the basis of a common programme.
The second decision adopts the Rules of Procedure of the European Council.
The Czech government lost a confidence vote in the lower house of the Czech parliament. Now the Czech President Klaus should start consultations to nominate a new government. This may be quite difficult, since the lower house is split between rivaling parties.
EurActiv reminds us that this is not a precedent – the government of a country presiding the Council has fallen twice before – in 1993 in Denmark and in 1996 in Italy. From a legal point of view there is nothing to worry about. However, today the European Union needs really strong leadership, and the Czech government in resignation may not be able to provide that leadership.
I am personally most worried about the possible implications on the Czech ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.