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'The Presidency Effect after the Lisbon Treaty: the Consequences of the Demotion of the Rotating Council Presidency'

Doreen Allerkamp

The Lisbon Treaty has made some key changes to the institutional set-up of the Council of the EU and the European Council. Most notably, it has institutionalized non-rotating, longer-term Presidencies for the European Council and the (newly established) Foreign Affairs Council. Before Lisbon, only the Eurogroup had an elected, longer-term Chairman, while semi-annual rotation was the provision for all (other) Council constellations, including the European Council. While this has had certain drawbacks (notably persistent continuity issues), which have previously been addressed by measures preserving rotation (notably the annual and multi-annual Presidency programs), it has also had certain unintended consequences that have arguably been beneficial: under rotation, the combined effect of the Presidency’s ins-titutional shape, the expectations associated with it and the agenda it faces produces a certain integration bias in each member state-incumbent in turn, as each temporarily takes on responsibility for keeping the EU project moving and on track. Drawing on the experience of the first few post-Lisbon Presidencies, this paper assesses what the changes to one of its core factors, institutional shape, means for this ‘Presidency effect’; what, if any, changes there are to the expectations associated with the rotating Council Presidency as it negotiates its relationship with the new European and Foreign Affairs Council Presidents; and whether with the abolition of rotation in two of the most important Council formations, a certain potential for more continuity is being paid for with less member state responsibility for the European project as a whole.

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