The Council of the European Union: what about research?

The Council of the European Union, a brief overview

The Council of the European Union, also known as ‘the Council’, is one of the three legislatives bodies of the European Union. Together with the European Parliament, it is responsible for negotiating and adopting legislative acts proposed by the European Commission, but also for adopting the EU annual budget. Agreements related to foreign and security policy are also negotiated by the Council.

The Council is intergovernmental, and it is composed of 27 government members, one from each EU member state. Although the Council coordinates member states’ policies, it remains a supranational institution since its decisions and international agreements may affect most (if not all) EU nations.

The Council of the European Union is led by the Council Presidency, which is responsible for propelling the Council’s work. The Presidency is formed by a group of three member states and they are called the ‘trio’. A certain trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda of topics that need to be addressed by the Council over a period of 18 months. Setting these long-term goals is guided by the European Council’s strategic agenda. The Presidency trio rotates among the three member states every 6 months. The order of rotation of the Presidency is set by the Council itself.

What can be expected from Germany’s 6-months Presidency of the Council of the EU for Research and Innovation

Germany, Portugal, and Slovenia form the Presidency trio of the Council for the period from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2021. Germany took over the lead of the Council from Croatia, in the midst of the global health crisis. The chosen motto ‘Together for Europe’s recovery’ leaves no doubt: the COVID-19 pandemic is at the heart of Germany’s agenda, and with it, research, and innovation.

In view of the current crisis, the German Presidency announced supporting European research and its scientific community by enhancing online platforms and open access. And it has already started: the European Commission opened a roadmap on ‘the future of the European Research Area (communication)’ , an initiative to reboot the European Research Area (ERA) policy to enhance research and innovation within the poorer regions of the European Union, from September 2020 onwards. Earlier this year, the COVID-19 Data Platform, part of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, was launched and aims to accelerate Coronavirus research by facilitating data sharing and analysis. Germany’s role will be to support these efforts and to make science more accessible and efficient in order to tackle current societal challenges.

Environmental challenges are not left out of Germany’s 6-month programme: in order to successfully implement the European Green Deal, Germany would like to strengthen international cooperation in research and education areas. Germany’s Green Deal plan can be summarised with the following key points:

  • supporting green hydrogen initiatives;
  • further developing civic participation;
  • developing open online platforms.

Last but not least, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU announced that they will also support the Commission’s Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan:

We will support the drafting of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan announced by the Commission and discuss this in the Council with the objective of advancing both the prevention and treatment of cancer and also enhancing the potential of the digital transformation for improved cancer treatments. Moreover, we will lend our support to the Commission’s research and innovation mission for cancer.

Programme for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union,
I. Europe’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, p.15

You can read the full programme here.

Laura Jousset
EuChemS Science Communication & Policy Officer

The Council of the European Union website: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/
The German Presidency of the Council of the European Union website: https://www.eu2020.de/eu2020-en