08 Jul 2011

The General Affairs Council: The Key to Political Influence of Rotating Presidencies

Piotr Maciej Kaczyński / Andrew Byrne

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Despite the formal role laid out for the General Affairs Council (GAC) in the Treaties, it has been weakened since it was extracted from the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) and set up to function on its own. Its current uneven composition is leading to further marginalisation. The Policy Brief argues that reforming the GAC can bring it to the centre of gravity of the Council proceedings and address a number of problems in the current institutional structure. For that to happen, however, countries holding the rotating Council presidency need to consider placing their head of state or government in the chair of the GAC meetings. Upgrading GAC in this way would streamline the diverse work of the Council, it would help in alleviating the heavy political burden that now falls on the understaffed President of the European Council and it would allow the institution of the rotating presidency to regain a higher political profile by creating out of national leaders a de facto Vice President of the European Council.

Piotr Maciej Kaczy?ski is Research Fellow at CEPS and Andrew Byrne is EXACT Research Assistant at CEPS and Ph.D. candidate with the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cologne.