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June 1th Italy starts its six-month term as member state in charge of the Presidency of the EU Council

The European Council agreed (26-27 june 2014)  on five overarching priorities which will guide the work of the European Union over the next five years: (1) stronger economies with more jobs; (2) societies enabled to empower and protect all citizens; (3) a secure energy and climate future; (4) a trusted area of fundamental freedoms; (5) effective joint action in the world. A strong EU both in our neighbourhood and global.

This was the gist of the Leaders discussion in Ypres after a moving ceremony with the leaders of our 28 countries commemorating the centennial of the First World War – that the historic responsibility is still very much present among European leaders – as it is, no doubt, among European people.

Action in these five fields is vital, given the important challenges awaiting our societies. “Stronger economies” remains of course the number one priority. In a way it is the basis for everything else. In the media there was some attention to the leaders agreeing to put the built-in flexibility of the existing Stability and Growth Pact’s rules to good use. “Energy” is the other priority to ensure our energy future is under full control, to build an Energy Union aiming at affordable, secure and sustainable energy.

This is indeed an important signal. On all these five points, we indicated concrete actions that should be taken. However, the European Council’s main purpose was not to go into details, but to set the direction for the legislative work in the next five years; to achieve what people expect Europe to do. That is what the Treaty requires the European Council to do.

This morning at the launch of “New Pact for Europe” As the European Union prepares to open a new institutional cycle with a new leadership, Herman Van Rompuy President of the European Council, said: These five priorities must guide the action and planning of the EU institutions in the years ahead, and it is important that all institutions organise their work accordingly

Each six months, according to a pre-established order, a new Member State takes the helm of the Council of the EU. The Presidency’s role encompasses chairing Council meetings, taking charge of the agenda, promoting legislative and political decisions, and brokering compromises among Member States.

Starting today, Italy, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – holds this position through December 31. Its eleventh since 1959. Tomorrow Renzi presents those priorities to the new EU Parliament’s first plenary session. They include growth and employment, changing the European discourse and European external action.