German Council’s Presidency: tough program and “virtual diplomacy”

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  For the coming six months, starting from July 2020, Germany assumes a rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (the Council). In the light of the pandemic crisis, the Presidency team has revised the initial agendas and concentrated on public health in the member states, as well as on tackling most serious pandemic’s socio- economic and political consequences.

  The focus of the German Presidency is mainly on the concentrated efforts by the EU institutions and the member states to overcome the COVID-19 crisis; hence the Presidency’s motto: Together for Europe’s recovery. However, the “German team” has taken into account some other though not less urgent issues, such as the EU-US and global economic and political relations, the transitional measures in the states towards sustainability, as well as the security challenges in northern Europe and the Baltic Sea Region, etc.  

  Despite the change of strategy, the German Presidency would keep attention to most vital European priorities; among them are climate change mitigation and digital transformation, final conclusion of Brexit, which still has a large number of unresolved issues.

  Last but not least, the German Council Presidency will have to operate under difficult practical conditions created by the pandemic, which have impeded physical meetings and have forced the whole EU’s governing system to move towards new forms of “virtual diplomacy”. This will further increase the significance of the German Presidency; though much will depend on its ability to steer online discussions in forging joint positions.  

  The German government has therefore formulated the so called “exit strategy” for the rebuilding the European economy, which (among other things) included in particular, the Franco-German initiative for a €500 billion “recovery fund” aimed to support to the most affected sectors and regions among the EU states. Therefore, one of the main priorities during the Presidency would be reaching a consensus on the revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the recovery fund, which would allow the European Commission to borrow necessary resources on the global financial markets.

   Hence, the German programme is based on the following guiding principles: – overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for the long-term as well as economic and social recovery, – a stronger and more innovative Europe, – a fair Europe, – a sustainable Europe, – a Europe of security and common values, and – a strong Europe in the world.

Source: German Presidency’s official website at:


The rotating Council Presidency: five main tasks

  The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this 6-month period, the presidency’s country chairs the so-called Council configurations’ meetings composed of numerous EU socio-economic integration issues.  

  First task is chairing meetings of the different Council of Ministers’ configurations – presently ten (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council), and the Council’s preparatory bodies, which include permanent committees such as the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper), and working parties and committees dealing with the EU specific spheres.

  Second, is to represent the Council in relations with other EU institutions, particularly with the Commission and the European Parliament; here the Presidency tries to reach agreements on legislative files in “trios” programs, as well as in informal negotiations and Conciliation Committee meetings.

  Third, is developing the EU’s common foreign and security policy; the Council defines and implements EU foreign and security policy on the basis of guidelines set by the European Council. Together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council ensures the unity, consistency and effectiveness of the EU’s external action. 

  Fourth, it concludes international agreements: the Council provides the mandate to the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the EU agreements between the EU and non-EU countries and international organisations. At the end of negotiations, the Council decides on the signature and conclusion of the agreement, based on a proposal from the Commission. The Council also adopts the final decision to conclude the EU’s agreements, once the Parliament has given its consent (required in areas subject to co-decision) and the member states ratified them.

  These agreements may cover both broad areas (e.g. external trade, cooperation and development, etc.) and specific areas (e.g. sectoral policies on agriculture, fisheries, textiles, customs, transport, science and technology, etc.).  

  Fifth, the Council adopts the EU budgets together with the Parliament; there are two budgets, the EU’s yearly budget covering a calendar year (it is usually adopted in December and starts running on 1 January the following year), and the multi-annual budget for seven years (the latter shall be also concluded by the end of 2020, i.e. during German Presidency).


Troka’s common program

  The presidency of the Council of the European Union (or just “the Council”) rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During the 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council while helping to ensure the continuity of the European integration process in the Council of Ministers. Member states holding the presidency work together closely in groups of three, called “trios” or trilogies; the system which was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. As a rule, the trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda determining the topics and major issues that is addressed by the Council over 18-month period; the present program was adopted in November 2018.

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  On the basis of this programme, each of the three countries – the current trio is made up of the presidencies of the Romania, Finland and Croatia – is preparing its own more detailed 6-month program.

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  Due to closer attention to local and regional issues, the “trio-group” was closely involved in the work of the Committee of the Regions, CoR as the most active among the EU’s consultative agencies in discussing the post-pandemic actions and measure to overcome the crisis. 

  Already about a month before, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the EU Michael Clauss, has set out the priorities of the German Presidency and “troika” common program for Germany, Portugal and Slovenia; the next two members of the Council’s Presidency presented their agendas too, i.e. ambassador Nunu Brito for the Portuguese priorities during January-July 2021 and ambassador Iztok Jarc for the Slovenian targets during the six-month presidency in the second half of 2021.

  The three Presidencies will do their utmost to restore and further deepen the Single Market, take forward the Green transition and the Digital transformation, strive for digital sovereignty, ensure the strategic autonomy of the EU through a dynamic industrial policy, support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, screen foreign direct investment, build more resilient infrastructure in particular in the health sector, and produce critical goods in Europe to reduce over-dependency on third countries ‒ in line with the key recommendations of the recovery roadmap.

  That is why the key feature throughout the three Presidencies would be: the European “green deal”, the EU’s “digital future”, the Research and Innovation (R&I) program, as well as implementing the European Action Plan on Circular Economy, new jobs and skills program, and general measures to increase the member states’ competitiveness, etc.   

Source: “Taking forward the Strategic Agenda: 18-month Programme of the Council”-1 July 2020 – 31 December 2021; in:


  The expectations of the German Presidency in the Council are highly ambitious: it must be bold in political and economic measures towards European sustainable transformation while focusing on social, environmental and digital challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. In order to regain “the hearts and minds of Europeans”, the Presidency has to follow strong initiative to make the EU governing system more modern, visible and meaningful to citizens’ daily lives. In this regard, a conference on the “Future of Europe” (to end up in mid-2022), would be another “political priority”; in fact, it was French and German governments that initiated in November 2019 the idea of a Conference on the Future of Europe. The idea was supported by the Commission and the European Parliament, with an aim of sketching up short- and long-term goals for the EU’s future with the necessary reforms in European integration; in January 2020, the Parliament adopted a resolution setting out its vision for the Conference with 494 votes for, 147 against and 49 abstentions (out of nine Conference’s working group four members are from Germany). It has to be noticed, however, that the conference’s idea stems from a previous Commission’s College: it was adopted in a White Paper on the Future of Europe in March 2017.



  In the next six months, much will depend on the Germany’s presidency method and style; as the leaders of the Franco-German Institute put it: to exercise “its responsibility for Europe” Germany would have to explore its leadership abilities in the continent, something that the member states are both asking for and afraid of…


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