Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The Presidency of the European Union Council is a major event in the foreign policy activities of each Member State of the European Union. The Council of the European Union is one of the three most influential institutions of the European Union. And given the importance of decisions taken by the European Union, both in the Member States and in global politics and in the economy as a whole, it makes presiding over this institution a very important event.
The Presidency of the Council of the EU is the one which chairs the ministerial meetings in nine out of ten of the formats of this institution and sets up their agenda. The Ministers of the Presidency should also represent the EU Council in negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament in drafting EU legislation and assist EU officials in relation to third countries and other international organizations.
From now on, the Member States of the European Union have presided over the Council of the European Union. Their rotation follows a pre-agreed agreement and, at present, around fourteen years; Member States have the opportunity to become the most politically important country in the EU and take advantage of the increased interest of European and global media in the country. For six months, either in the first half of the year or in the second half of the year, the Member State and its administration must be mobilized to advance both planned and current legislation and manage meetings in times of crisis.
It is precisely the frequent crises and unexpected issues that show the ability or inability of every country presiding in the EU's Council to manage. Whether or not it is a small or large EU Member State. Whether it has only one experience of managing the EU Council as Latvia, or whether it is the Thirteenth Presidency as Germany currently has. The ability to take responsibility and work with the other Member States of the European Union, with other institutions of the European Union and with the bureaucratic apparatus of the Council of the European Union itself, the General Secretariat of the Council, is an essential condition.
The task of each Presidency is to be an honest broker. Only fairness and equal neutrality towards all partners have proven to be the basis for success in running the EU Council. A successful Presidency in the Council of the European Union is a matter of national prestige. It is a matter of maturity for the country's membership of the European Union. It is a real test for the political elite, diplomatic service, public administration in general, and also for the public, not only how capable all these components are to cooperate with each other in achieving one goal, but also how much the country is able to alienate from its direct interests and focus on the challenges and desires of the European Union as a whole.
The list of works planned by each Presidency in the Council of the EU and the ideational setting shall be read in its six-month work programme. Each Presidency, taking into account current developments, outstanding legislative issues, reform needs, the overall development and growth of the European Union, shall draw up and make public a six-month work programme. It is about twenty pages of material that reflects the situation in the European Union and its political, economic, social, climate, security and many other issues. The challenges of this moment to the European Union can be seen clearly in the German presidency's six-month work programme. The priorities chosen by the German state clearly demonstrate a long-term view of the future of the EU.
The guidelines of Germany's Presidency are the first to remove the economic consequences of THE COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the creation of a more innovative, safer, fairer, more sustainable, stronger and values-based European Union that is capable of presenting itself to the rest of the world. The motto chosen by the German Presidency is "Together to the European Recovery". This clearly marks the harsh reality of the European Union, not only economically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also politically, due to Brexit and increasingly complicated relations with the United States.
The economic recovery underlined by Germany is a priority issue caused by an unprecedented crisis in the history of the European Union: the rapid spread of a contagious disease with the consequent need to limit economic activity, to introduce mass border controls in the Schengen area, and to spare national health systems from collapsing. The EU has no competence to act in the field of health, so the response at EU level can only be measures of economic stimulation. In this case, the next EU multiannual budget for the years 2021-2027 and the establishment of instruments for economic recovery are fundamentally important.
And, as demonstrated by the first month of the German Presidency, it was also done, including by providing Latvia with substantial support both for future cohesion funding, for agriculture, for the further development of Rail Baltica and for economic recovery in the sectors affected by the pandemic. But of course, this is only one of the instruments and a number of other measures and structural reforms are needed to ensure the strength and sustainability of the European Union. The European Union's modernization efforts are also included in the six-month work programme of the German Presidency in the EU Council.
Germany stresses the need to work towards a continuation of the digitization of the European Union and even the development of digital sovereignty, which also includes the establishment of a sustainable, independent telecommunications infrastructure. Promoting innovation, both by supporting small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and by changing national support for the global performance of large companies, is among the primary offers. This would not only allow the economy of the European Union to be modernised but would also contribute to social and economic convergence between EU Member States and societies. Income, social, gender, and other inequalities are a challenge that divides and democratizes citizens both economically and politically. Therefore, one of the German proposals is, however, the controversial EU framework for setting national minimum wages in the other EU Member States.
Without economic challenges to the safety of EU citizens, care must also be taken to tackle modern security challenges for both societies and democratic institutions. Disinformation, hate speech, racism in various forms have subversive elements that are administered both inside and outside the EU. In the same way, as the terrorist disease cannot be considered to be fully defeated, it is also necessary to address hybrid threats, threats to the information area, and the European way of life with strong rigor. This is also clearly underlined by Germany's six-month work programme for its Presidency in the Council of the European Union.
The European Union's own resources would be sufficient to meet many threats, but the support of partners, good neighborly relations with the immediate regions, the maintenance of the international legal system and international trade are essential elements for the Union and its Member States to continue to grow. The United States, along with the EU's neighborhood, is strategically important partners or challenges that require patience and diplomatic prowess.
The German Presidency of the Council of the European Union takes place at an important moment for the European Union when the organization's future ways are decided. And German leadership is being welcomed and encouraged once again.
Published 22 September 2020