In the next six months, starting with 1 July, Estonia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (also referred to as the Council of Ministers, or the Council). The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is pleased to see that inclusion has been placed high on the agenda of the Estonian Presidency. This article seeks to provide information about the function of the Presidency of the Council and explore ways for ENIL to cooperate with the Estonian Presidency.
Together with the European Parliament, the Council is one of the main law-making bodies in the EU. The composition of the Council changes and consists of different national ministers, depending on the topic under discussion. The Presidency of the Council rotates among the EU Member States every six months. Estonia took over from Malta, and Bulgaria and Austria will be the next countries to hold the Presidency from 1 January and 1 July 2018, respectively. They will form the Presidency trio – a group of three Member States which hold the Presidency consecutively and work closely together to ensure consistency and set long-term goals.
During its time as the President, Estonia will chair the different Council meetings and will be responsible for advancing the work of the Council by setting priorities and facilitating negotiations.
One of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency is to work toward an “inclusive and sustainable Europe”. To put this priority into practice, Estonia will take a number of initiatives and ENIL is particularly pleased to see the following points included in the Presidency programme:
- Free movement of persons: the Estonian presidency sees the free movement of persons as one of the main pillars of the EU and will continue the work started under the Maltese Presidency to coordinate social security legislation across Member States. Although the main focus of these proposals is to stimulate the free movement of workers, it can be a step towards portable social rights for all EU citizens.
- Deinstitutionalisation will be a central theme of the Presidency. In October, Estonia will organise an expert conference on deinstitutionalisation in Tallinn, which will feed into the conclusions of the Council of the EU on Deinstitutionalisation, planned to be published at the end of the Presidency. ENIL will participate in the conference as a member of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) and the ESF Thematic Network on Social Inclusion.
- During its Presidency, Estonia will also try to reinvigorate the negotiations around the proposal for a horizontal equal treatment directive to supplement the non-discrimination in employment directive and protect all people living in the EU against discrimination in all areas of life.
- The vote on the initial position of the European Parliament on the European Accessibility Act will be on 13 September in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. While it is good to see that one of the goals of the Presidency is the adoption of the Act, ENIL counts on the Estonian Presidency to make sure that the rights of EU citizens are at the heart of the Act.
- Social Pillar: Estonia will try to reach an agreement between the Member States to approve the Pillar. ENIL looks forward to working together with the Estonian Presidency towards an enforceable Social Pillar, which has a real impact on people’s lives.
 For more information on the different Council configurations, please visit the website of the Council http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/configurations/