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The Van Rompuy Experience

Written by Joséphine Vanden Broucke

On Tuesday, 5 May at 18:00, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) is organising an event on ‘The first five years of permanent presidency of the European Council: The Van Rompuy Experience’, with former European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, as keynote speaker.

The event will be held in the European Parliament’s Library Reading Room (5th floor ASP Building).

Five years Council PresidencyAlthough its tasks did not change, the Treaty of Lisbon made the European Council an EU Institution in legal terms. The treaty also introduced a new post of European Council President, which, contrary to the system of six-monthly rotating Member State presidencies of the Council (which work on the current legislative agenda), serves for a minimum of 30 months.

Following this development, the Parliament decided to monitor and analyse the activities of the European Council more closely: how, and to what extent, are decisions contained in the Conclusions of its meetings followed up?

A panel debate with Mrs Danuta Hübner, Chair of Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee; Professor Uwe Puetter, author of a recent book on the topic; Dr Peter Ludlow of Eurocomment, considered by many to be the ‘unofficial historian’ of the European Council; and Dr Petya Alexandrova, author of the study on Agenda Setting in the European Council 2009-2014, will address such key questions. Former President Van Rompuy will also comment on the panel debate, and this a Q&A session will follow.

Dr Alexandrova’s study looks at the thirty-five European Council meetings which took place between 2009 and 2014, and presents a quantitative analysis of the European Council’s Conclusions for that period. Firstly, this analysis reveals that the European Council concentrated its attention on three domains – macroeconomics, foreign policy, and business and finance. The number of ‘punctuations’ (spikes in focus on certain areas) is higher than in preceding periods, for reasons analysed in more depth in the study. While the first two policy areas have always been prominent in the institution’s discussions, the latter is an exception, clearly brought about by the global crisis and the need to find solutions to its negative effects in the EU. Foreign policy discussions consequently suffered, and were not for events in the EU neighbourhood forcing the focus on foreign policy, this area would have received considerably less attention.

Although the European Council’s central task is to set political direction for the EU, and despite the fact that it does not have a legislative role, during the period 2009–2014 its Conclusions contained a slightly higher proportion of operational policy statements than strategic statements, some of them attaining a remarkable level of detail.

The study offers a first quantitative estimate of the institutional interaction of the Council, and mainly shows calls for action, addressed predominantly to the Commission, but with notable differences according to the policy area.

A dialogue between leading actors and commentators at the EPRS event next Tuesday will certainly lead to a better insight into this important period in the European Union’s history.

About ECOS

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)monitors and analyses the delivery of the European Council in respect of the commitments made in the conclusions of its meetings, as well as its various responsibilities either in law or on the basis of intergovernmental agreements.

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