EU member states are working behind the scenes on a review of their leaders’ summits to boost their efficiency amid the mounting challenges posed by US President Trump, more assertive China and other foreign actors. Being part of the debate launched under the EU’s rotating presidency, currently held by Finland, the review aims to improve the functioning of the Council and increase the efficiency in delivering EU objectives, particularly those in the Strategic Agenda endorsed by leaders in June.
Meanwhile, some EU countries also push for the inclusion of the European Council into the review, though there are concerns that these efforts to reshape EU summits could lead to frictions with the president of the European Council, who is responsible for organizing the EU leaders’ gatherings. Some EU members also sought to highlight “a need for consistency between European Council and Foreign Affairs Council” in the EU’s external relations, according to the minutes of the EU ambassadors’ meeting held on 10 July – this is especially in light of the EU’s tense relations with the US since President Trump’s election, the increasing assertiveness of China and the constant threat of Russia that have lately put external relations high on the leaders’ agenda.
Some voices have, however, also voiced their concerns over national efforts to influence the European Council. Unsurprisingly, the Council’s secretary general suggested that it is up to the presidency of each institution to reflect on its own working methods, referring especially to the links in some areas, including foreign affairs, between the European Council and the Council. Still, France, along with other EU members, still insisted on having a say how the summits work, stressing that the reassessment of the Council’s working methods should also include the European Council.