The decision to fix a permanent seat for the
European Council in Brussels could influence the fundamental
nature of the European Council and the EU.
The next European Council meeting on 24-25 October 2002
organised by the current Danish Presidency will be
different from the other European Council meetings. It is
the first European Council meeting to take place in
Brussels after the 22nd Declaration has been signed without
being under the hospice of the Belgian Government.
Following a decision taken at the
Seville European Council in June 2002, it will also be the
first European Council meeting with a formal agenda.
Although still drafted on a proposal by the Presidency, the
General Affairs and External Relations Council will
ultimately adopt the agenda.
According to a study by Christine Stark, visiting lecturer
at the University of Westminster and EU civil servant, this
physical placing of the European Council meetings in
Brussels could lead to clearer rules of procedures. A
permanent venue might also lead to further
institutionalisation of the European Council. "The European
Council is the supreme political authority of the EU and a
permanent seat will probably strengthen its position. Its
power might increase and, at the same time, the European
Council will continue to take a strong lead in governing
Europe," says Ms Stark.
"The current evolution will hopefully
bring EU interest in the foreground and help prevent
domination of the meetings by national interests. It should
create a more effective European Council: a more powerful
engine that could reinvigorate the EU integration process.
Hence, a comparatively minor administrative measure could
have a significant political impact," adds Ms Stark.
The 22nd Declaration attached to the Treaty of Nice signed
in 2001 by the Heads of State and/or Government permanently
fixes the European Council's location in Brussels. It
states that "as from 2002, one European Council meeting per
Presidency will be held in Brussels. When the Union
comprises 18 members, all European Council meetings will be
held in Brussels".
The present practice is that European
Council meetings are normally organised in the countries
that hold the Presidency, for example, in March 2002 in
Barcelona, in June 2002 in Seville during the Spanish
After Denmark, Greece, who will hold the Presidency in the
first half of 2003, intends to hold one European Council
meeting in Brussels. During its Presidency in the second
half of 2003, Italy plans to organise both European Council
meetings in Brussels. Ireland, who holds the Presidency in
the first half of 2004, plans to organise at least one, if
not both European Council meetings in Brussels.