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The Council of the European Union

Hungary will hold the presidency of the EU during the period January to June 2011, to be relieved in July by Poland and then be brought by Denmark, Cyprus, Ireland ...

The Council Presidency rotates every six months duration. In other words, each EU country is responsible for the Council agenda and chairs all the meetings during a semester, promoting legislative and political decisions, and in exchange for agreements between Member States.

If, for example, the Environment Council meets during the Presidency of Hungary, the meeting will be chaired by the Hungarian minister of environment, as Hungary takes over the Presidency of the Council at this time.

The Council has six key responsibilities:

1. To pass European laws. In many fields it legislates jointly with the European Parliament.

2. Coordinating general economic policies of the Member States.

3. Conclude international agreements between the EU and other countries or international organizations.

4. Approve the budget of the EU, together with Parliament.

5. Developing the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU (CFSP, see Common Foreign and Security Policy), based on guidelines set by the European Council.

6. Coordinate cooperation between national courts and police in criminal matters (see Justice and home affairs).

Most of these responsibilities relate to the 'community', ie those in which Member States decided to pool their sovereignty and delegate decision-making powers in EU institutions.

These areas are the "first pillar" of the European Union. However, the last two responsibilities relate largely to areas in which Member States have not delegated their powers but are simply working together. This is called "intergovernmental cooperation" and covers the second and third "pillars" of the European Union.