General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
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The General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, also known as Council Secretariat, assists the Council of the European Union, the Council Presidency, European Council and the President of the European Council. The General Secretariat is currently headed by Secretary-General Uwe Corsepius.
The Secretariat is based in Brussels, in the Justus Lipsius building. The respective Secretariats of the Schengen Agreement and of now-defunct Western European Union and European Political Cooperation have along the years been integrated with the Council Secretariat.
- It "shall be closely and continually involved in organizing, coordinating and ensuring the coherence of the Council's work and implementation of its annual programme". This involves 'traditional tasks', such as planning, convening and organizing the meetings (around 100 sessions of the Council, and more than 3500 meetings of working parties and other gatherings every year, e.g. extraordinary Council meetings or EU meetings with other states), arranging rooms and translation, making the minutes, acting as the Council's registrar and memory by keeping archives, and being a depositary for international agreements.
- it acts as a legal adviser and political counsellor to the EU Presidency. It advises the Presidency, especially in working out the compromises on which Council decisions and other acts will be based. Members of the Secretariat's Legal Service are on hand at all important meetings to advise on issues raised in the discussions and to clarify the legal aspects of certain procedures. The Legal Service also represents the Council before the Court of Justice of the European Union, the General Court (European Union) and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal;
- The Council Secretariat also plays an important role in the EU's intergovernmental conferences (IGC), because it provides the IGC Secretariat. Apart from legal advice, it also tries to be an honest broker among member states. Close observer have argued that the Council Secretariat, together with the Presidency, is the most important actor in the IGC (Gray & Stubb 2001).
It currently consists of 7 directorates-general, the Legal Service, 5 departments under the Secretary-General (e.g. internal audit, general political questions) and has around 3200 employees.
References and further reading
- Council Decision of 22 March 2004 adopting the Council's Rules of Procedure
- "An Introduction to the Council of the European Union", European Communities, 2008, p.16
- Ibid, p.16
- (Art. 240(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union)
- Art. 240(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
- Beach, D. (2004), ‘The unseen hand in treaty reform negotiations: the role and influence of the Council Secretariat’, Journal of European Public Policy, 11(3), pp. 408–439.
- Christiansen, T. (2002a), ‘Out of the Shadows: The General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers’, Journal of Legislative Studies, 8(4), pp. 80–97.
- Duke, S. & Vanhoonacker, S. (2006), ‘Administrative governance in the CFSP: development and practice’, European Foreign Affairs Review, 11(2), pp. 163–182.
- Gray, M. & Stubb, A. (2001), ‘Keynote article: The Treaty of Nice – Negotiating a Poisoned Chalice?’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 39 Annual Review, pp. 5–23.
- Hayes-Renshaw, F. & Wallace, H. (2006), The Council of Ministers, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Westlake, M. & Galloway, D. (2004), The Council of the European Union, London: John Harper.
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- Council website: http://www.consilium.europa.eu – Europa
- Main CFSP bodies in the Council Secretariat: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr