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Holland for President!

Categories: Culture,Latest News

Oddly there’s not much buzz on the street about it; only the politically savvy are paying attention to this particular piece of Amsterdam news. But if you’ve had your eyes peeled (especially in the Scheepvaartsmuseum/Marineterrein area), you might have noticed a sharp uptick in the number of top-level EU politicians in the city. Oh, you don’t know your European political leaders by face? Shame on you (shame on us all).

Amsterdam Forum & blog

Presidency, wha?

There’s a reason they’re all here, of course: Amsterdam is currently (January through June) the seat of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU. That’s not the same thing as the President of the EU…though people make that mistake all the time. The EU Council is basically the upper house of legislature for the EU, the yin to the European Parliament’s yang. (The EU Council is also not the same thing as the executive-branch European Council, the club only European heads of state can join. Nor is it the European Commission, the executives who actually get stuff done. Yeah, it gets confusing.)

So, while the Netherlands holds the presidency, the Dutch top ministers (of say education, agriculture, etc.) will welcome their counterparts from Europe’s other countries for policy-discussing meetings, which they’ll lead themselves. And rather than lumping the international visitors in with the national Dutch government in The Hague, Nederland is putting them up in the capital city.

So, for six months, Amsterdam is where it’s AT. And by “it” we mean the meetings of top officials from around the EU, plus additional monthly meetings to discuss the refugee crisis, a whole slew of conferences, and (most intriguingly for us mere plebeians) arts festival Europe by People. The big-name visitors will combine these Amsterdam events with guided tours to other parts of the Netherlands to see how the Dutch work.

Tri-tri-triple it

If six months seems like a really short period to play presidency, it’s because the role is supposed to rotate regularly through all the member states so that everyone gets a turn at the helm. But, it’s also indeed really short – which is why the Council of the EU has started focusing on the concept of “trio presidencies,” or three back-to-back presidencies that span similar issues.

The Netherlands is starting off the latest trio, to be followed by Slovakia in July and finally Malta in January 2017. The Dutch plan is to focus on four key areas: migration and international security, making the eurozone more financially resilient, job creation through innovation, and energy policies and the environment.

Does that mean we should all expect big changes in early 2016? Nah, it’s still politics.

By Elysia Brenner – February 16, 2016