The three main institutions of the EU are each chaired by a figure known as president. The origin of this term can be traced back to the nominalisation of the classical Latin verb praesidēre, which is formed by the prefix prae- (pre-) and the verb sedēre (to sit). This points to the idea that the person in charge of a group of people – be it an assembly, a community or an institution – sits in front of everyone else at meetings.
Following this year’s European elections, the European Parliament will elect its new president for a two-and-a-half-year term from among its members. The President of the European Parliament ensures that the assembly follows all procedures properly, as well as oversees its activities and committees. Moreover, the President is also in charge of representing Parliament in all legal matters and in its international relations. Together with the President of the Council, the President of the European Parliament signs all legislative acts adopted as part of the ordinary legislative procedure.
The national leaders of all EU countries nominate and the European Parliament approves by absolute majority the head of the European Commission, a role that is also known as president. The President of the European Commission is responsible for deciding on the organisation of the institution, allocating portfolios to its members, and establishing its policy agenda. The President also represents the European Commission in meetings with the European Council, G7 and G20 summits, bilateral summits with non-EU countries and other major discussions in the European Parliament and the Council.
The European Council, consisting of the heads of state or government of each Member State, also elects its own president every two and a half years. Until 2009, it was an unofficial position held by the EU country holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. However, the President of the European Council today has a full-time role and is in charge of chairing the European Council’s meetings, overseeing its work, and presenting its reports before the European Parliament, among other responsibilities.
president. In: Oxford English Dictionary Online. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/150742?result=1&rskey=AaFNEZ&. Accessed 17th May 2019.
The President. About Parliament. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/about-parliament/en/organisation-and-rules/organisation/the-president. Published 2018. Accessed 17th May 2019.
Jean-Claude Juncker. European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/president. Published 2015. Accessed 17th May 2019.
The President’s role. The European Council. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/president/role/. Accessed 17th May 2019.
Written by Santiago Chambó — Schuman trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. His research interests include Terminology Management, Knowledge Representation and Environmental Sciences. He wants the EU to lead the way in ecosystem restoration and degrowth policies.