Opinion Pieces

Even with Lisbon treaty, rotating presidency may continue to lead the EU in global health

It is a big misunderstanding that the rotating presidency will be abolished with the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. In fact, the rotating presidency will continue to exist outside the European Council, in which the heads of the EU states meet and the Foreign Affairs Council, which will be chaired and represented by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR; Catherine Ashton).

Other Council formations, such as the Environment Council, the Health Council, Agricultural Council and their subordinate bodies, such as the Health Working Party will continue to be chaired by a representative of the country holding the rotating presidency (in 2010 Spain and Belgium). It is still not known whether development will be included in the Foreign Affairs Council or will get its own Development Council formation in which case it would be chaired by the rotating presidency. It is also not yet known if DG Development will be included in the European External Action Service (EEAS) that will work for the HR.

The question for the EU’s role in global health is whether global health is defined as the external dimension of EU and national health policy or as foreign policy. If it is defined as the external dimension of EU and national health policy the rotating presidency is likely to stay with the European Commission taking over on those issues where EU competences are exclusive (e.g. on trade related matters). However, if the EU’s role in global health would be defined as foreign policy it is likely that the HR and EEAS would take over leadership on global health.

Louise van Schaik, Clingendael Institute