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Europe

New EU Members Prepare for Presidencies

The EU's new member states are beginning preparations for their turn at running the 25-nation bloc.

Slovenia, which is to be the first of the new member states to take on the job as part of a team presidency with Germany and Portugal starting in 2007, has already started asking for tips from 'old' member states. The team presidencies, which are part of the new Constitution, foresee three countries co-operating over 18 months under the control of a Council President. Slovenia was chosen as the first new member state because it is "one of the countries whose preparations are out in front," an EU official said. All groupings have been chosen so that they do not consist of only new member states; have at least one large member state; and are not concentrated in one geographical area. So Poland, Denmark and Cyprus have been put together as have Italy, Latvia and Luxembourg. The next new member state up for the job is the Czech Republic (along with France and Sweden) in 2008."We are consulting with Ireland and the Netherlands," said a spokesperson for the Slovene mission in Brussels. Ireland ran a very successful presidency in the first half of this year while the Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency. Lithuania, which will not get a crack at the presidency until 2013 - along with Greece and Ireland - has also already started its preliminary preparations, said a spokesman. A hefty administrative exercise - particularly for small member states - the EU presidency involves organizing and chairing the hundreds of meetings and councils that take place in the EU in any given six months. However, it is also a chance to showcase the host country as ministers and their entourages descend upon different parts of the country to attend meetings. (EUobserver.com)

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