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FIRST "NORMAL" PRESIDENCY UNDER LISBON TREATY?

Last of the first trio of rotating Presidencies of the Council of the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty, first-timer Hungary could be the first "normal" one, according to Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre (EPC).

One year after the entry into force of the new treaty, Piotr Kaczynski, a researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), argues that "we still haven't found a sustainable mode of running the rotating Presidency". Formally, the Lisbon Treaty has curtailed the range of power of rotating Presidencies and limited their visibility by removing the chairmanship of the European Council and foreign ministers' meetings. They have been made to become "administrative, legislative presidencies," says Kaczynski. Nevertheless, "in practice we don't know really how the rotating Presidency will function effectively in the future," he points out.

The Spanish Presidency found itself in an awkward situation, trying to grapple for lost influence, due to the uncertainty surrounding the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The Belgian Presidency was exceptional because of two factors. Firstly, having been Belgian prime minister prior to becoming the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy was able to have an extremely close and efficient working relationship with the rotating Presidency. Secondly, with only a caretaker government in place, the Belgian Presidency focused on dealing with the dossiers already on the table without resorting to additional political initiatives.

Emmanouilidis expects the Hungarian Presidency will not be as "low profile" as the Belgian one. But, on the other hand, he believes the Hungarians have taken on board the new institutional architecture and will not attempt to "recalibrate" the role of the rotating Presidency. In any case, Emmanouilidis does "not expect the Hungarians to create a rough ride for President Van Rompuy". The Hungarian Presidency will attempt to bring a personal twist during the next six months but in the end current affairs should dictate priorities.

DOMESTIC SITUATION

Policial upheaval appears unlikely. With two-thirds of the national parliament loyal to Viktor Orban's cause and few dissident voices in the opposition, the Hungarian political forces appear to be unified behind the upcoming Presidency's programme. However, Hungary's inexperience and domestic situation have raised a few eyebrows (see separate article) as to how the rotating Presidency will cope with the tasks it is presented. Nevertheless, the diminished role of the rotating Presidency has an advantage: domestic troubles are "less problematic," according to Emmanouilidis. Kaczynski concurs, saying that the EU should not look to the Hungarians as scapegoats for any potential failures under their Presidency. In light of the tense political climate and the complex challenges ahead, other institutions will have to step up their game.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EXHU
Date:Jan 4, 2011
Words:441
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