The role of the permanent president of the European Council

"The role of the permanent president is to enhance a shared sense of direction. Nothing more, nothing less. Where are we going? How do we deal with our neighbours? Who are our main strategic partners in the world? Where do we want to be in ten or twenty years time? These are vital issues."


Brussels, 24 February 2010
PCE 32/10

Speech by
President of the European Council
at the European Parliament

I am delighted to have this opportunity to take part in a debate with you today, not so much to report on the informal of Heads of State and Government of two weeks ago - it was, after all, only an informal meeting with no formal conclusions to report - but to take this opportunity to meet with you early in my mandate.

Had I waited until the first formal opportunity to report on a European Council - that taking place at the end of March - I would not have come before this Parliament before the end of April, some five months after my designation as President.

Let me therefore take this opportunity to lay out how I see my role and function. I shall spend a few minutes on this, so as not to have to return to this on future occasions.

There has, of course, always been a Presidency of the European Council - not the same thing as a President of Europe, as some media put it. So what has changed? Three small things, but which will together, over time, have the potential to make a significant difference.

First is the element of continuity. Past Presidents changed every six months - that is after every second or third meeting. There was little opportunity to develop a long term strategy. Our partners in third countries were bemused at having to meet a different Head of Government every time they had a summit with the European Union. Greater continuity is fundamental to building relationships and carrying out a serious task.

Second is the full-time nature of the job. Previous Presidents had to simultaneously manage their own national government. This meant that, at best, they could only deal half-time with European affairs. By creating a full time post, dedicated to the running of the European Council and its follow-up, including external representation, the European Council now has a better chance to play its role within the European institutional system.

Third there is the fact that Heads of State and Government now choose who they want who to hold this position, rather than it happening haphazardly from an arbitrary rotation system. I hope this too augers well for the support that the President can count on.

These three changes are all pragmatic improvements to the previous institutional architecture. But, taken together with the fact that the European Council now becomes an institution in its own right, they give the European Council a better chance of fulfilling its task under the treaties of "defining the general political directions and priorities" of the Union.

Some commentators have seen a great deal more in this role. Others have seen less. On the one hand, some consider the presidency of the European Council to be a sort of 'Président' in the manner of an executive Head of State as in, for example, France. Others, on the other hand, see it as the mere chairmanship of the meeting of the Heads of Government.

In reality it is neither. It is certainly not a 'Président' endowed with executive powers in its own right. The incumbent must express the views of the collectivity of the Heads of State and Government.

On the other hand, the role is not merely one of being a chairman, giving the floor to one or another member of the European Council to speak during its meetings. The task of preparing and then following up its meetings and representing the Union externally - for instance, along with the President of the Commission, at the G20 Summit - and his role as a bridge between the national capitals and the institutions clearly go beyond the task of merely chairing meetings.

The role of the permanent president is to enhance a shared sense of direction. Nothing more, nothing less. Where are we going? How do we deal with our neighbours? Who are our main strategic partners in the world? Where do we want to be in ten or twenty years time? These are vital issues.

As regards my relationship with the European Parliament, the Treaty is quite brief on this. It simply requires that I report to you after meetings of the European Council. That means a minimum of four times a year, though in most years that is more likely to be five or six and may, in the future, rise to ten. It will not be long before many of you will be fed up with the sight of me! I will continue to multiply other useful contacts with MEPs such as the meetings I have begun with leaders of Groups and the monthly meeting I have with your President.

My role indeed, should not be confused with that of the President of the Commission. Mr. Barroso chairs an executive that is elected by and is accountable to the European Parliament. It submits legislative and budgetary proposals to you - I do not do so. The Commission President has an intimate day-to-day contact with the European Parliament, not least in working on these legislative and budgetary proposals. My task is rather to ensure that the Heads of State and Government can collectively agree on their overall strategy for the European Union both as regards its internal development and in terms of its external relations.

I have a weekly meeting with President Barroso. We are both acutely aware of the need to avoid any conflicts of competence or misunderstandings as to who is responsible for what. Public opinion and third countries may well find it difficult to grasp the difference between the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council. I am confident we are on the right track.

In this context it is also important to remember that I am President of the European Council and not of the Council of Ministers. These are now separate institutions. The ordinary Council, which is the other branch of the legislature with the European Parliament, will still be chaired by a Presidency that continues to rotate every six months among the Member States. Only in the configuration of Foreign Affairs, where it co-ordinates executive power, does it have a permanent President in the form of Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the Commission and High Representative for Foreign Policy.

I pause at this point to pay tribute to the work being done by Catherine Ashton. In facing up to multiple challenges in the field of Foreign Affairs and Security and in preparing the External Action Service, she deserves our support. It will be my privilege to work closely with her in external representing the Union.

Let me just say a few words about the European Council itself. The first formal meeting under my chairmanship will take place at the end of next month. We did, however, have a useful informal gathering of Heads of State and Government earlier this month in the Biblothèque Solvay just a few hundred metres from here. Whether it was because of the more intimate surroundings of the library or the physical proximity to the Parliament, our discussions were fruitful.

As I said, I cannot report any formal conclusions to you from an informal meeting. At most, I can share with you my own personal conclusions from the discussions, which I have set out in a letter to the members of the European Council and which I know has been circulated within the Parliament.

My aim with this informal Council was mainly to prepare our future deliberations on the issue of how to improve Europe's economic performance as we exit the immediate economic crisis. This involves looking at our targets and ambitions - and we had a very useful paper from Commission President Barroso on this - but also how to improve our governance on these issues. How we go about managing our integrated European economy - the world's largest market - in order to improve our economic performance is one of the central questions facing the European Union.

Our initial exchange of view on this involved looking at how we set targets, how we follow them up, how we evaluate results. It is in large part about coordinating the exercise of national competences whilst making full use of European Union competences and instruments available. It is therefore a task for which the European Council is eminently suited.

In the Solvay meeting, all members of the European Council agreed that we need a better, but more focussed, economic coordination in the Union. Both for macro-economic policy (certainly in the euro area) and for micro-economic policy. A lot of this is very technical, but let’s just take the idea of bringing down the number of common economic objectives to concentrate on just four or five. These objectives should be quantifiable and divisible in national sub-objectives. It makes no sense to have scoreboards on, say, 65 different data.

Moreover, all members of the European Council were willing to take more responsibility in a common European strategy for growth and jobs. Such personal involvement is indispensable. We need to go from paper recommendations to real-life commitment. I was glad to find such a level of ambition around the table!

Whether you want to call it better coordination, better governance or even a gouvernement économique, the key is the common commitment to success.

We also had a quick discussion on how to better implement Europe's actions in the reconstruction of Haiti. We want to take this discussion further with an eye to better implementing Article 214 of the Treaty on the co-ordination of humanitarian aid.

A discussion on how Europe should respond strategically to the Copenhagen conference on climate change will be pursued at the next European Council.

Unexpectedly, of course, there was also a discussion on the situation in Greece. I took it upon myself to ensure that this was handled in the European Union's institutional framework and not outside it, and that the agreement reached met with the approval of all 27 Heads of State of Government as well as the Presidents of the Commission and the European Central Bank. This degree of consensus was a message about Greece's acceptance of its responsibility to cut its deficit in a credible way and of our solidarity with it, if needed.

I very much look forward to hearing your views on all these matters, not least on how we can face all the challenges facing our Union.

I can assure you that I have one over-riding goal for the coming years: to ensure that our Union is on track to be strong enough internally to maintain our own social model and externally to defend our interests and project our values. I think that all European institutions can and should work together for those goals.

Consilium /NewsRoom/

Estamos preparando la traducción española.


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Declaración del Consejo europeo, 11.02.2010

Edición trilingüe: en español, francés e inglés

Fuente: Consejo de la Unión Europea

Bruxelles, el 11 de febrero de 2010

Declaración de
los Jefes de Estado o de Gobierno
de la Unión europea

Todos los miembros de la zona euro deben llevar a cabo políticas nacionales en línea con las normas acordadas. Todos tienen una responsabilidad compartida para la estabilidad financiera y económica en la zona.

En este contexto, apoyamos completamente los esfuerzos del Gobierno de Grecia y su compromiso para hacer lo que sea necesario, incluyendo adoptar medidas adicionales, para garantizar que se cumplan los ambiciosos objetivos establecidos en el programa de estabilidad para 2010 y los años siguientes.

Instamos al gobierno de Grecia a aplicar todas estas medidas con rigor y determinación, para reducir efectivamente el déficit presupuestario en cuatro puntos porcentuales en el 2010.

Invitamos al Consejo Ecofin a que adopte, en su reunión del 16 de febrero, las recomendaciones a Grecia, sobre la base de la proposición de la Comisión y de las medidas adicionales que Grecia ha anunciado.

La Comisión seguirá de cerca la implementación de las recomendaciones, en coordinación con el BCE, y propondrá las medidas adicionales necesarias, recurriendo a la experiencia del FMI. En marzo se hará una primera evaluación.

Los Estados miembros de la zona euro tomarán medidas determinadas y coordinadas, si fuera necesario, para salvaguardar la estabilidad financiera en la zona euro en su conjunto. El Gobierno de Grecia no ha requerido ningún apoyo financiero.


Bruxelles, le 11 février 2010

Déclaration par
les Chefs d'Etat ou de Gouvernement
de l'Union européenne

Tous les membres de la zone euro doivent mener des politiques nationales saines conformes aux règles agréées. Ils ont une responsabilité partagée pour la stabilité économique et financière dans la zone.

Dans ce contexte, nous soutenons pleinement les efforts du gouvernement grec et son engagement pris aujourd'hui de prendre toutes les mesures nécessaires, y compris l'adoption de mesures additionnelles, pour garantir que les objectifs ambitieux définis dans le programme de stabilité pour 2010 et les années suivantes soient atteints.

Nous appelons le gouvernement à mettre en œuvre l'ensemble de ces mesures de façon rigoureuse et déterminée afin de réduire effectivement le déficit budgétaire de 4% en 2010.

Nous invitons le Conseil Ecofin à adopter lors de sa réunion du 16 février les recommandations à la Grèce, sur la base de la proposition de la Commission et des mesures additionnelles annoncées par la Grèce.

La Commission surveillera étroitement la mise en œuvre de ces recommandations en liaison avec la BCE et proposera les mesures additionnelles nécessaires en s'appuyant sur l'expertise technique du FMI. Une première évaluation sera faite en mars.

Les Etats membres de la zone euro prendront des mesures déterminées et coordonnées, si nécessaire, pour préserver la stabilité financière de la zone euro dans son ensemble. Le gouvernement grec n'a demandé aucun soutien financier.


Brussels, 11 February 2010

Statement by the
Heads of State or Government
of the European Union

All euro area members must conduct sound national policies in line with the agreed rules. They have a shared responsibility for the economic and financial stability in the area.

In this context, we fully support the efforts of the Greek government and their commitment to do whatever is necessary, including adopting additional measures to ensure that the ambitious targets set in the stability programme for 2010 and the following years are met. We call on the Greek government to implement all these measures in a rigorous and determined manner to effectively reduce the budgetary deficit by 4% in 2010.

We invite the Ecofin Council to adopt at its meeting of the 16th of February the recommendations to Greece based on the Commission's proposal and the additional measures Greece has announced.

The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations in liaison with the ECB and will propose needed additional measures, drawing on the expertise of the IMF. A first assessment will be done in March.

Euro area Member states will take determined and coordinated action, if needed, to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole. The Greek government has not requested any financial support.

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El presidente de la UE invita a los jefes de estado o gobierno a concertarse

{Edición monolingüe inglesa + tradución española de la AEU}

Invitation letter by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council,
for the Informal meeting of Heads of State or Government

Herman VAN ROMPUY, President of the European Council, sent today the letter enclosed to the EU Heads of State or Government. The letter sets out the agenda and the objectives of the Informal meeting that will be held in Brussels on 11 February.


Brussels, 8 February 2010

I look forward to our informal meeting on 11 February. The purpose of this meeting is primarily to discuss the direction of our economic policies for the years to come, in the form of a renewed strategy for jobs and growth. This is even more important in the light of recent developments inside and outside the eurozone. We will also devote some time to the lessons to be drawn from the Copenhagen Conference on climate change. We have to take into account the most recent international developments and reflect on how to adjust to them. Finally, we will look at the way ahead on Haiti.

I see our meeting as the beginning of a process of close and ongoing concertation among Heads of State or government on all major issues facing the EU. It is my intention for the European Council to regularly come back to those themes and provide clear guidance.

In order to facilitate an open and informal discussion, I have arranged for the meeting to take place outside the Justus Lipsius building, in the renowned Bibliothèque Solvay.

We will start our meeting at 10h15 with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.

After the family photo, we will devote our first working session, as well as our lunch, to discussing our economic strategy. The economic crisis has increased the sense of urgency to refocus our efforts and to better coordinate among ourselves. All European economies are facing major challenges. Our structural growth rate is not high enough to create jobs and sustain our social model. We need to act together to address these challenges to help preserve our European way of life and keep up with the other major economies in the world. Without losing sight of the immediate challenges, we need to look at our medium term priorities and see how we can better coordinate our efforts.

In the past years, the Lisbon Strategy has been a useful framework for policies in the EU. But it requires ownership and commitment at the highest level - the new strategy needs to become our joint responsibility. As a contribution to our discussion, I have set out a few ideas on how to achieve those objectives, taking into account the discussions I have had over the last weeks with each of you. I will give the floor to Jose Manuel Barroso who will talk to us about the priorities of the new economic strategy, in advance of the Commission's formal proposals expected by early March. I expect a substantial discussion, focusing on the political aspects.

The discussion will continue over lunch. We will also use the lunch for an exchange of views on some aspects of the present economic situation.

After lunch, we will start our second working session at 14h30 by asking José Manuel Barroso to share with us his evaluation of the Copenhagen Conference on climate change. I propose to centre the debate on the following points. First, we need to assess the situation after the notifications of the UNFCCC parties and discuss future tactics. Second, we should explore concrete ways of changing the dynamics of the negotiating process. Third, we should talk about the lessons to be drawn from Copenhagen for our relations with strategic partners. This concerns working with willing partners on issues like green technologies and norms while insisting that major players face up to their responsibilities in a globalized world so as to ensure a level playing field. I have asked the High Representative to share with us her first thoughts on the latter issue.

Finally, we will address the dramatic situation in Haiti. Beyond immediate rescue operations, we must not lose sight of the need for longer-term reconstruction efforts. The forthcoming international conference on Haiti will accordingly need a coordinated preparation by the EU. We should also start looking at the lessons to be drawn as regards the EU's emergency response capacity, taking account of the possibilities opened by the new treaty. On all of these issues, we need to ensure that work is rapidly advanced.

I am looking forward to a strategic discussion, allowing the members of the European Council fully to play their role in setting orientations for the work of the Union.



Tradución española de la AEU

Carta de invitación por Herman Van Rompuy, presidente del Consejo Europeo, para la reunión informal de Jefes de Estado o de Gobierno

Herman Van Rompuy, presidente del Consejo Europeo, ha enviado hoy la carta adjunta a los Jefes de Estado o de Gobierno. En la carta se establecen el programa y los objetivos de la reunión informal que se celebrará en Bruselas el 11 de febrero.


Bruselas, 8 de febrero 2010

Espero con interés nuestra reunión informal del 11 de febrero. El propósito de esta reunión es fundamentalmente para debatir la orientación de nuestras políticas económicas para los próximos años, en la forma de una estrategia renovada para el crecimiento y el empleo. Esto es aún más importante a la luz de los recientes acontecimientos dentro y fuera de la zona euro. También vamos a dedicar algún tiempo a las lecciones que cabe extraer de la Conferencia de Copenhague sobre cambio climático. Tenemos que tener en cuenta los acontecimientos internacionales más recientes y reflexionar sobre cómo adaptarse a ellas. Por último, veremos el camino a seguir en Haití.

Veo nuestra reunión como el comienzo de un proceso de concertación estrecha y continua entre los Jefes de Estado o de Gobierno sobre todas las cuestiones importantes que enfrenta la UE. Es mi intención que el Consejo Europeo vuelva con regularidad a estos temas y ofrezca una orientación clara.

A fin de facilitar una discusión abierta e informal, he previsto para la reunión el que tenga lugar fuera del edificio Justus Lipsius, en la famosa Biblioteca Solvay.

Comenzaremos nuestra reunión a las 10h15 con un intercambio de opiniones con el Presidente del Parlamento Europeo, Jerzy Buzek.

Después de la foto de familia, dedicaremos nuestra primera sesión de trabajo, así como el almuerzo, para discutir nuestra estrategia económica. La crisis económica ha aumentado la sensación de la urgencia de reorientar nuestros esfuerzos y de coordinarnos mejor entre nosotros mismos. Todas las economías europeas se enfrentan a grandes desafíos. Nuestra tasa de crecimiento estructural no es lo suficientemente alta como para crear empleos y mantener nuestro modelo social. Tenemos que actuar juntos para abordar estos desafíos, para ayudar a preservar nuestro modo de vida europeo y mantenerno al día con las otras grandes economías en el mundo. Sin perder de vista los desafíos inmediatos, tenemos que mirar a nuestras prioridades a medio plazo y ver cómo podemos coordinar mejor nuestros esfuerzos.

En los últimos años, la Estrategia de Lisboa ha sido un marco útil para las políticas de la UE. Pero se requiere la propiedad y el compromiso al más alto nivel - la nueva estrategia debe convertirse en nuestra responsabilidad común. Como una contribución a nuestra discusión, he extraído algunas ideas sobre cómo lograr esos objetivos, teniendo en cuenta las conversaciones que he tenido en las últimas semanas con cada uno de ustedes. Voy a dar la palabra a José Manuel Barroso, quien hablará con nosotros acerca de las prioridades de la nueva estrategia económica, como adelanto de las propuestas formales de la Comisión previstas para principios de marzo. Espero un debate de fondo, centrándonos en los aspectos políticos.

El debate continuará durante el almuerzo. También utilizaremos el almuerzo para un intercambio de puntos de vista sobre algunos aspectos de la situación económica actual.

Después del almuerzo, vamos a comenzar nuestra segunda sesión de trabajo, a las14.30 , pidiendo a José Manuel Barroso que comparta con nosotros su evaluación de la Conferencia de Copenhague sobre cambio climático. Propongo que se centre el debate sobre los puntos siguientes. En primer lugar, tenemos que evaluar la situación después de las notificaciones de las partes de la CMNUCC y discutir las tácticas del futuro. En segundo lugar, debemos explorar vías concretas de cambio de la dinámica del proceso de negociación. En tercer lugar, debemos hablar de las lecciones que pueden extraerse de Copenhague para nuestras relaciones con socios estratégicos. Esto se refiere al trabajo con socios dispuestos en temas como las tecnologías ecológicas y las normas, aunque insistiendo en que los principales actores asuman sus responsabilidades en un mundo globalizado, a fin de garantizar la igualdad de condiciones. He pedido al Alto Representante que por la primera vez comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos sobre esta última cuestión.

Por último, se abordará la dramática situación en Haití. Más allá de las operaciones de rescate de inmediato, no debemos perder de vista la necesidad de los esfuerzos de reconstrucción a más largo plazo. La próxima conferencia internacional sobre Haití necesitará, por consiguiente, una preparación coordinada de la UE. También debemos empezar a ver las lecciones que pueden extraerse con respecto a la capacidad de respuesta de la UE en los casos de emergencia, teniendo en cuenta las posibilidades abiertas por el nuevo tratado. En todas estas cuestiones, tenemos que garantizar que el trabajo avance rápidamente.

Estoy deseando que mantengamos un debate estratégico, que permita a los miembros del Consejo Europeo el desempeñar plenamente su papel en el establecimiento de orientaciones para el trabajo de la Unión.



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