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European Union: Ireland Holds the Presidency of the European Council

(Jan. 31, 2013) On January 1, 2013, Ireland assumed the Presidency of the European Council, a postion that rotates among the European Union (EU) Member States every six months. This is the seventh time that Ireland has held the Presidency since it joined the EU in 1973. The Presidency has an official website (last visited Jan. 30, 2013), and a logo, which was selected by the public in a poll and consists of four interwoven “e” letters, forming one unified shape. The four “e” letters represent EU Members and Ireland’s four decades of membership in the EU. (Presidency Logo, Irish Presidency website (last visited Jan. 30, 2013).)

Ireland is the first EU member of the incoming group of the next Presidencies of the European Council. At the end of 18 months, another group of three members will be assigned the Presidency. The next two partners that will hold the Presidency are Lithuania, which will preside from July to December 2013, and Greece, which will assume duties from January to June, 2014. While in principle each EU Member which holds the Presidency has the right to establish and pursue its own priorities, the system of designating presidencies for the next 18 months is designed to ensure that the three EU Member States named as the next ones to hold the Presidency will jointly identify common priorities and objectives and thus improve their chances to attain those objectives during the whole period, rather than in the just the six months allocated to each EU Member. (Trio Programme: Ireland, Lithuania and Greece, Irish Presidency website (last visited Jan. 30, 2013).)

The priorities established by the Policy Program adopted by Ireland, Lithuania, and Greece and the EU Council Secretariat focus on increasing growth, creating more jobs, and improving EU competitiveness. Some highlights are:

  • strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union through implementing economic governance mechanisms;
  • ensuring EU financial stability, in particular for the Banking Union;
  • concluding work on the seven-year EU budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020;
  • improving the competitiveness of EU industry with a focus on the competitiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises;
  • developing the Digital Single Market and the new Digital Agenda;
  • advancing the EU’s trade agenda through the promotion of free, fair, and open trade, particularly with the United States;
  • working on the EU membership enlargement agenda; and
  • preserving the Union’s role as a leader in development and humanitarian issues. (Id).

Enda Kenny T.D., Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, commented on the Policy Program, stating that:

This is our guiding policy document for a Presidency which is that of a recovery country leading recovery in Europe. We’ve already started our work and will pursue this programme in the interests of stability, jobs and growth. We will not lose a minute in doing so – now is the time to deliver on what we have agreed together. (Irish Presidency Policy Program: “For Stability, Jobs and Growth,” Irish Presidency website (Jan. 9, 2013).)