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Presidency of the Council of the European Union

What is the EU Presidency

EU flagsThe Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates between each of the 28 Member States every six months. The first Presidency dates back to 1958 when Belgium assumed the role and since then the hosting nation has handed over to the next Member State on January 1st and July 1st every year.

During its six month term the hosting Member State is Chair of the Council of the European Union meetings. The Council is made up of government ministers from Member States and who attends which meetings depends on what the topic is. For example, agriculture ministers will sit if farming is being discussed and environment ministers will attend if the topic is global warming.

The Presidency organises these meetings and has the responsibility of moving Council work forward as much as possible by helping Member States reach agreement and by formulating compromise proposals that support the interests of the EU as a whole when differences in opinion emerge. The Member State hosting the Presidency has a duty to act as an ‘honest broker’ as well as a responsibility to be impartial on all matters.

During its six month term the Presidency also represents the Council on the world stage at international conferences and in its dealings with other EU institutions, including the European Commission and the European Parliament.

How the EU Presidency works

Image showing flags of next three presidenciesThe Council of the EU is one of the decision-making institutions of the European Union, so assuming the Presidency is an important role. The rotating Presidency chairs all of the Council configurations, except the Foreign Affairs Council, which has been presided over by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy since the Lisbon Treaty came into force.

Another important change that was introduced in 2007 means the Presidency programme is now shared by three Member States over an 18-month period. This allows three successive Presidencies, or Trio, to work together over an extended period on a common agenda. Working together in close co-operation means the Trio has more time to set achievable targets than they would have under separate six month terms.

Ireland’s previous Presidencies

Enlargement Day 2004: Aras an UachtarainIreland has a proud record of hosting the EU Presidency. Including 2013, Ireland has held the Presidency seven times since becoming a Member State in 1973. Each Presidency has been marked with important moments in the development of the European Union and Ireland has proved that it is more than capable of brokering difficult agreements and helping to push legislation forward. Here are some of the milestones reached during Ireland’s previous Presidencies.


  • Ireland had only been a Member State for two years when it first hosted the EU Presidency on January 1st 1975. On March 10-11 the first ever official European Council meeting, where heads of state gather to discuss EU events, was held in Dublin. The UK was holding a referendum on its membership of the then EEC and major decisions taken at the meeting enabled the British government to back a yes vote.
  • The Council also set up the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support disadvantaged regions and a significant step towards monetary union was taken when a European unit of account, based on a composite basket of the Community currencies, was adopted.
  • Greece formally applied to join the EEC during Ireland’s first Presidency and the Council adopted a preliminary programme for a consumer protection and information policy.


  • Ireland’s second Presidency from July to December 1979 was held at the end of a major attempt by Europe to tackle international trade barriers. The Council endorsed an agreement made during the Tokyo round of multilateral trade negotiations on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which had been going on for more than six years.
  • Member States signed a Council of Europe Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.
  • A European Council meeting in Dublin on November 29-30, where British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made the headlines for demanding a rebate on UK contributions to the EEC, also discussed the convergence of Member States' economic performances and proposals for regulation of agricultural markets.


  • It was decided at a European Council meeting held in Dublin on December 3-4 to reinforce the European Monetary System (EMS) and to grant the European Currency Unit (ECU) a more important role. This was another important step towards full monetary union.
  • A commercial and economic cooperation agreement was signed by China and the Community.


  • Ireland’s fourth Presidency came just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall and during the collapse of Communism across east and central Europe. At a special European Council meeting in Dublin on April 28 a common approach on German unification and on relations with central and east European countries as they moved towards democracy was agreed.
  • The European Council agreed to create the European Training Foundation and adopted a regulation that led to the creation of the European Environment Agency.
  • The EEC and EFTA (Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland) started formal negotiations for the creation of the European Economic Area (EEA).


  • The Council adopted a regulation concerning the aids granted for the reconstruction of the republics of former Yugoslavia after the Balkan War and agreed on Community action for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines.
  • A European Council meeting on December 13-14 in Dublin reached agreement on the various elements necessary for the introduction of the single currency. The Council also adopted the Dublin Declaration on Employment to help develop conditions in Member States that would lead to job creation.


  • On May 1st the Accession Treaty came into force and the leaders of 10 new Member States were welcomed into the European Union at a special Day of Welcomes ceremony held at Farmleigh House in Dublin.
  • The European Commission's Road Safety Charter was signed at Dublin Castle. The charter is aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on European roads.


  • The Irish Presidency successfully brokered agreement on the €960 billion Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) EU budget for 2014-2020.
  • A deal on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was secured.
  • Agreement was reached with the European Parliament on the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD IV) that sets rules on the amount and quality of capital banks must hold.
  • The Presidency also successfully brokered agreement on the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), one of three pillars in the proposed Banking Union designed to protect taxpayers from failing banks.
  • Agreement was also reached on a Bank Recovery and Resolution (BRR) Framework - a crucial element of another Banking Union pillar, the Single Resolution Mechanism.

Last update: 07/08/2015  |Top