Council of the European Union
The Council of the EU (the Council) is the key EU institution in the decision-making process. Its legislative role is shared with the European Parliament, whose competencies in this field are growing especially after adoption of Lisbon Treaty.
The Council consists of representatives of the governments of the EU Member States. It meets in nine different configurations depending on subjects being dealt with. Each configuration of the Council is made up of ministers competent for specific fields. Below is the list of configurations.
1. General Affairs and External Relations – FAC and GAC (Foreign Minister)
2. Economic and Financial Affairs – ECOFIN (Minister of Finance)
3. Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs – JHA (Minister of the Interior and Minister of Justice)
4. Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs – EPSCO (Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs and Minister of Health)
5. Competitiveness (Minister of the Economic Development and Technology and Minister of Education, Science and Sport)
6. Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (Minister of Infrastructure)
7. Agriculture and Fisheries (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food)
8. Environment (Minister of the Environment and Spatial planning)
9. Education, Youth and Culture (Minister of Education, Science and Sport and Minister of Culture)
The heads of state or government of the EU member states president of European Council and president of the Commission also meet in the scope of the Council of the EU. These meetingsare known as the European Council. The decisions taken at the European Council meetings define the general political guidelines of the European Union and are thus vital to the operation of the Union. The meetings are attended by Slovene Prime Minister.
Committees and Working Parties
Ministers of the EU Member States meet regularly, but not more than once a month. Issues the ministers in each Council configuration decide on are first dealt with by authorised national representatives working in preparatory bodies of the Council, namely committees and working parties.
The key committee of the Council is the Committee of Permanent Representatives or COREPER (French acronym for Comité des représentants permanents) consisting of ambassadors of the Member States to the European Union. COREPER is responsible for preparing the work of the Council and performing the tasks assigned to it by the Council. It carries out preliminary scrutiny of the dossiers on the Council agenda and seeks to reach agreement at its own level on each dossier or at least harmonise as much as possible the positions of the Member States in order to maximise the possibility of reaching an agreement at the ministerial level.
COREPER is the only Council body dealing with the entire scope of EU activities, while ensuring the consistency of policies and activities of the Union. Permanent Representative represents Slovenia in COREPER. Or, more precisely, he and other permanent representatives of the EU Member States participate in COREPER II, dealing with political, institutional, general, financial and foreign policy matters, home affairs and justice, as well as preparing meetings of the European Council.
Deputy Permanent Representatives participate in COREPER I, which is devoted to other topics relating to Council configurations, such as social policy, agriculture and fisheries, environment, education, culture and competitiveness.
In addition, other specialised committees have been established for specific spheres of EU competence. Diplomats from Permanent Representations in Brussels thus convene within the Political and Security Committee (PSC).
There are also nearly 200 working parties significantly contributing to the work of the Council. Some of these only meet on an ad hoc basis to agree on certain issues; the majority meet regularly and prepare the sessions of both COREPER bodies. Working parties meet in two configurations: diplomats from permanent representations (weekly or several times a week) and/or experts from ministries (usually monthly). About 20 to 30 working parties convene every day. Working parties represent the first level of coordinating national positions and primarily hold expert discussions. Their meetings are also attended by the European Commission.
Presidency of the Council of the EU
The rotating presidency of the Council of the EU is held by a different member state every six months. The sequence of presiding countries is established by consensus in the Council of the EU. The order of rotation for the period 2007–2019 was fixed at the end of 2004, taking into account the ten Member States that joined the EU that year. In 2006, the Rules of Procedure were amended to ensure the continuity of the Council’s work. This led to the current system of so-called trio presidency: every 18 months, three subsequent presidencies prepare, in close cooperation with the Commission, a joint programme of activities.
A joint 18-month programme was first drafted by Germany (presiding in the first half of 2007), Portugal (second half of 2007) and Slovenia (first half of 2008).
The aim of the presiding country is to enable the continuity of the work of EU institutions. This means that it presides over European Council meetings, all Council configurations, sessions of the two COREPER bodies, working parties and committees of the Council, and represents the Union in CFSP issues (in cooperation with the High Representative). It also directs and organises the Council’s work in accordance with the Rules of Procedure.