Choosing 'Mr(s). Europe' [Archived]


The Treaty of Lisbon introduces two new European top jobs: a high-profile president to chair EU summit meetings for a two-and-a-half year term and a revamped foreign policy chief. However, selecting the right people to fill these positions proved a politically-sensitive task.

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The EU's new 'Reform Treaty' was agreed upon by EU leaders at a summit in June 2007 and the updated final text was formally approved in October 2008 at an intergovernmental conference (IGC) (EurActiv 19/10/08). The 'Treaty of Lisbon', as it was finally named, was officially signed by EU heads of state and government at a summit in the Portuguese capital on 13 December 2007 (EurActiv 14/12/07). 

The treaty aims to streamline EU decision-making by introducing voting reform in the Council, reducing the size of the European Commission and strengthening the role of national parliaments. It also creates two new posts: 

  • A new, permanent president of the EU Council of Ministers, who will chair EU summits and;
  • High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a position previously held by Javier Solana, who will also be the EU's external relations commissioner. 

The legal foundation 

The legal basis for the positions of permanent President of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is briefly defined by the Lisbon Treaty: 

  • Article 9B: 

5. The European Council shall elect its President, by a qualified majority, for a term of two and a half years, renewable once. In the event of an impediment or serious misconduct, the European Council can end the President's term of office in accordance with the same procedure. 

6. The President of the European Council: 

(a) shall chair it and drive forward its work; 

(b) shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council; 

(c) shall endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council, and; 

(d) shall present a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council. 

The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 

The President of the European Council shall not hold a national office. 

  • Article 9E: 

1. The European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, shall appoint the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Council may end his term of office by the same procedure. 

2. The High Representative shall conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy. He shall contribute by his proposals to the development of that policy, which he shall carry out as mandated by the Council. The same shall apply to the common security and defence policy. 

3. The High Representative shall preside over the Foreign Affairs Council. 

4. The High Representative shall be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. He shall ensure the consistency of the Union's external action. He shall be responsible within the Commission for responsibilities incumbent on it in external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action.