On 1 January 2017, the torch of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (“EU”) was passed from Slovakia to Malta. The Presidency rotates every six months between the EU Member States, but continuity is guaranteed through small groups of three countries with consecutive Presidencies, called ‘trios’. Each trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda with the topics and major issues for the Council to address over the next 18-month period. Each of the three Member States also prepares an individual, detailed 6-month programme. Malta, the last country in the Netherlands-Slovakia-Malta trio, will focus on migration, security, single market, social inclusion, neighbourhood policy and maritime affairs. It will of course also be faced with the UK formally triggering the exiting process from the EU, which is expected for March 2017.

While the Presidency of the Council of the EU does not have the political importance it used to, before the Lisbon Treaty (2009), it remains an important player in the Union’s political reality, and has certainly an influence in the shaping of its political and legislative activity. It is the Presidency’s responsibility to drive forward the Council's work on EU legislation, and to ensure orderly legislative processes and cooperation among Member States. The other main tasks of the Presidency are to represent the Council in relations with other EU institutions, and to plan and chair the meetings in the Council and its preparatory bodies.

Malta will host its first summit of EU Heads of Government on 3 February 2017.