IT is really important, having set our objective as independence in Europe, to keep abreast of what is going on there even when much of the UK media has actively withdrawn from Brussels, and I thank The National for giving me the opportunity to be a roving correspondent even if I’m viewing things from Westminster.

This week I’ll try to unpick the first round of musical chairs in advance of the European Union elections in June.

It is a bit Byzantine (and I would have swept much of this architecture away in the Lisbon Treaty reforms), but it is a finely balanced consensus mechanism which will decide who, eventually, will be responsible for making decisions for the EU. Decisions like how to deal with a Scottish membership application.

Last week, eyebrows were raised across the continent when the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, announced his resignation to run as a candidate in the European Parliament election in his native Belgium for the French-speaking liberal party, Mouvement Reformateur. That decision to run looks, to the untrained eye, as fairly uncontroversial. Politicians in democracies do, after all, run for election every few years or so.

Yet Michel’s decision to step back from his role as president of the European Council threatens to cause no end of political contortions, given that Hungary will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the latter half of this year.

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The two are not the same thing: the European Council meets quarterly, is composed of the heads of government of the EU states and sets the overall direction and policy of the EU.

It also nominates the commissioners of the European Commission for approval of the newly elected European Parliament, with the president of the commission coming from the political family that won the European Parliament elections.

The Council of the European Union is chaired every six months by “the presidency” – a different member state government (presently Belgium till June, then Hungary from July). It meets almost constantly and is composed of the ministers of the EU governments depending on what subject is being discussed (so all the agriculture ministers, or transport, or whatever).

It is this body that leads on co-legislating with the MEPs in the European Parliament, passing laws to deliver the overall agenda of the European Council.

The role of the president of the European Council is to chair its meetings, drive forward its work, manage the horsetrading and represent the EU internationally alongside the president of the commission.

Crucially, the mandate of the president often extends several months after European parliamentary elections to manage the transition from one term of commissioners to the next.

So how does Hungary come into all this?

Because if there is no president of the European Council, then the head of state or government representing the presidency of the Council of the EU chairs all meetings of the European Council itself.

With European Parliament elections being held from June 6-9, and it being unlikely that decisions on the commissioners will be completed until towards the end of this year, if a successor to Michel is not decided upon soon then the presidency will also be the de facto president of the European Council – which from July 1 until December 31 will be Victor Orban as Hungary holds the presidency position.

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It is safe to say Orban could use this position ­– as he has on Russia, Ukraine and rule of law – toholding twin roles could be problematic for the collective. And it comes at a time when it has never been more vital to support Ukraine its self-defence against Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression, or be vigilant on increasing instability in the western Balkans.

Needless to say, Michel’s decision has not gone down well in European capitals as it has bounced the horse trading six months forward.

So what happens next? A stop-gap candidate is almost certainly going to be found to avoid Orban being in the hot seat at such a crucial time, but few of the runners and riders were ready so there’s a scramble under way.

A decision will need to be made on whether to appoint a new council president for July (whose term would then require re-appointment in November due to term limits).

There is speculation that the position will go to a Social Democrat, given they are the second largest grouping in the European Parliament and likely to remain so after the elections.

As for who that Social Democrat might be, a range of names includes former Portuguese PM Antonio Costa, Denmark’s former

PM Metter Frederiksen, former Swedish PM Stefan Lofven or, for the non-Social Democrat option, Mario Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank and former Italian PM.

So the council president will likely be the longest-serving person in the institutions in a very short period.

How does this affect us in Scotland? In the short-term, perhaps not much given that we are (currently) outside the EU.

Longer-term though, the decisions about who becomes a European commissioner and eventually EU Commission president will have legislative ramifications with our most important trading partner market, as well as the EU’s long-term political direction.

As we aspire to be an independent country in Europe, it is important we keep an eye on the weather, and personnel, in Brussels and know how they got there. They’re our future colleagues, after all.