Puetter Explores Indispensable Role of European Council President During High-Level Panel Debate in Brussels
Uwe Puetter, professor of public policy and director of CEU’s Center for European Union Research, was an expert discussant at a high-level panel debate on the full-time presidency of the European Council hosted by the European Parliament’s Research Service (EPRS) in Brussels on May 5. Herman Van Rompuy, the first full-time president of the EC (2009-14) and former Belgian prime minister, presented a keynote address at the debate.
In his remarks, Puetter, who has recently published a book on the leading role of the European Council in European Union affairs, said that the position of the European Council president has become “one of, if not the most important job in Brussels.” Puetter noted that although Van Rompuy was “soft spoken” about his own political views, he was not considered a weak president. He pointed to the president’s important powers as an agenda setter and as a direct interlocutor of the heads of state and government.
Puetter said that the EU would have found it much harder to react to the Euro crisis had there not been a full-time president of the European Council. The position has become, explained Puetter, an integral part of an entire infrastructure for collective decision-making, ”which involves key institutional resources which make it easier for member state governments to coordinate at the highest political level as well as under time pressure.”
Looking ahead, Puetter noted that there were a number of “smaller institutional adjustments” that could be made to the position of European Council president. He urged caution though noting that there are many informal practices attached to the European Council presidency that have grown organically since the late 1990s.
Earlier this year Puetter presented a report to the Constitutional Affairs Committee on the growing importance of the European Council and its president in EU decision-making.