• Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU

    From 1 July to 31 December 2014, Italy is in charge of the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Italy has held the presidency 11 times in the history of the Union.

    The presidency of the Council of the EU:

    The Council is a single legal entity that meets in 10 different “configurations” depending on the subject to be discussed. Hence, the Ministers for the Environment meet in the Environment Council, the Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs meet in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and so on for all sectors. The presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates amongst member states every six months according to a pre-set order. The first semester starts on 1 January and ends at the end of June. The second semester starts on 1 July and ends on 31 December.

    During the next six-month term, Italy will be in charge of preparing, coordinating and chairing the work of the Council; it shall act as an honest broker in order to promote legislative decisions and policy initiatives, and to negotiate with member states.

    The presidency has two main tasks:

    a) planning and chairing the meetings of the Council and its preparatory bodies. The presidency is in charge of the agenda of the Council and of chairing a number of meetings: two meetings of the European Council, the meetings of the Councils of Ministers (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council), the meetings of its preparatory bodies, several informal ministerial meetings, summits and other meetings between the EU and third countries as well as many other sector specific events;

    b) representing the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, especially with the Commission and the European Parliament. Its task is to try and reach agreement on legislative files through trialogues, informal negotiation meetings and Conciliation Committee meetings.

    In January and July each year, the member state in charge of the presidency presents its six-month programme to the European Parliament. In June and December, when the six-month term expires, the Head of State or Government presents the work carried out and submits to the European Parliament a report on the last meeting of the European Council.

    Italian presidency set out the following priorities:

    a) Europe for employment and economic growth

    The Italian Presidency will endeavour to place growth and employment at the centre of European policies and to define an economic framework capable of encouraging structural reforms within member states. Real economy, “industrial renaissance”, with a particular focus on SMEs as well as energy and climate policies for 2030 will be at the heart of growth initiatives. The Italian presidency will work to strengthen the European Economic and Monetary Union and reduce the serious social “spread” in European societies, to finance growth and support investments in sectors that are key for the future of our children, such as environmental protection, infrastructures and digital services.

    b) A new impetus to the European Union’s foreign policy

    The Italian Presidency will promote a more active role of the European Union in areas where the European initiative adds value, such as protection of fundamental rights as well as migration and asylum policies. In this context, the Italian Presidency intends to work at developing a genuine solidarity at a European level and promoting a European migration policy.

    c) Europe will be closer to citizens: a space for democracy, rights and freedom

    Italy will strive for EU external action to be credible, consistent and equipped with the necessary tools to address global and regional challenges. The Mediterranean is a vital space for Europe. The migration emergency forces Europe to adopt instruments and common policies to tackle this major phenomenon of our time. If we look at our neighbouring countries, enlargement still is a strategic priority for the Italian Presidency. Accession negotiations with Western Balkans will then be encouraged and we will work to give new impetus to the negotiations with Turkey. More generally, the Presidency will support bilateral trade negotiations and investments with strategic partners and emerging economies, such as the Asian ones which will be the focus of the ASEM summit on 16-17 October.

    After the Italian presidency from July till December 2014, Latvia will take over for the period January till June 2015, followed by Luxembourg.

    For more information on the Italian semester, please visit the official page.

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