The Presidency, i.e. the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is held by each Member State in turn for a period of six months. During this time, the Presidency is the "face and voice" of the European Union, speaking on behalf of all Member States. The order of rotation for the Presidency has been established for the period 2005 to 2020.
In the first half of 2007, Germany holds the Presidency for the twelfth time.
Germany will be followed by Portugal on 1 July 2007 and Slovenia on 1 January 2008.
During the six months of its Presidency, Germany will chair all meetings of Heads of State or Government and all Council meetings. The latter take place in Brussels or Luxembourg, although it is also customary for the ministers to meet informally in the country holding the Presidency. A total of 14 informal ministerial meetings will therefore take place in Germany during its Presidency. The exact dates of these meetings can be found via the calendar on the Presidency website.
Germany will also chair the preparatory meetings of these sessions. These include the weekly meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee, which consists of the ambassadors of the EU Member States (Coreper II) or their deputies (Coreper I), and the regular meetings of some 200 committees and working groups.
It is the Presidency's responsibility to prepare the Council's work as efficiently as possible and to deliver progress by drawing up compromise proposals and brokering agreement between the Member States.
The work programme of the German Presidency can be found here (PDF).
The German Presidency has also drawn up a joint programme with Portugal and Slovenia, the next Member States to take on the role (Download the 18-month Programme of the German, Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies).
The Presidency represents the Council in dealings with the other institutions and bodies of the European Union, in particular the European Commission and the European Parliament.
The Presidency acts in the European Parliament on behalf of the Council, and thus on behalf of all Member States. The work programme is presented to Parliament at the beginning of the Presidency and a final report at the end. The Presidency reports regularly to Parliament on work in the Council and takes part in question-and-answer sessions on topical issues and debates on important integration projects. It also represents the Council in negotiations with Parliament in the legislative process. The German Presidency's appointments in the European Parliament can be found via the calendar on the Presidency website.
The Presidency similarly represents the Council in the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
The Presidency represents the European Union internationally in close cooperation with the European Commission. It is supported in this by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
In the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), it is often the Troika that represents the EU in dealings with third countries (countries that are not members of the EU). Since the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, the Troika comprises the Presidency in office, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and a representative of the European Commission. The Presidency may be assisted by the Member State next in line to take over the Presidency.
The Presidency issues declarations and statements, discussed in advance with the other Member States, in international organizations such as the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Presidency also speaks on behalf of the European Union at major international conferences.
Holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union also presents a considerable logistical challenge. The variety of conferences taking place all over the world must be coordinated, and Germany itself will play host to more than 150 meetings, many of them at ministerial level.