COUNCIL : DOUBLE PRESIDENCY HITS FIRST SNAG.

The first steps in the rotating Presidency of the EU Council and the stable president of the European Council have already revealed clashes with regard to the division of tasks, despite the facade of consensus that leaders are attempting to display.

It is not easy being the first Presidency in exercise to have to take on the implementation of the institutional provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. Because, while they bristle with good intentions on paper, they are likely to be difficult to administer in practice. Spain, which took over the reins of the EU Council on 1 January for six months, will in particular test the concept of double presidency' and, in this regard, learn to keep a low profile. Behind his unassuming and even austere appearance, the new President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy (Belgium), should, in fact, attempt to establish himself.

As of his first official day at work, on 4 January, he did not waste any time. Whereas the former prime minister intended to keep a low profile in the media, he finally deciced to mark the event by planning audiovisual coverage and by making a rather memorable declaration. He therefore announced, without waiting for his meeting, on 8 January in Madrid, with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that he was already working on preparation for an extraordinary European Council, which will be dedicated to the revival of the Union's economic growth and which, he confirmed, will be held on 11 February.

The holding of this summit and even its date are entirely his own initiative. While member states mentioned the subject during the last European Council, they never really took a decision on it. Van Rompuy, who had already made known in December that he intended to become more involved in certain subjects, such as the economy, is thus marking his territory and his prerogatives from the outset. He is also showing that his schedule will not be dictated by the Spanish EU Presidency. But in order to maintain an image of bon accord and consensus, he co-signed on the same day with Zapatero a column in...

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