Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

European Council

Source: Europa Nu.

The European Council brings together EU leaders to set the EU's political agenda. It represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries.

One of the EU's 7 official institutions, the Council takes the form of (usually quarterly) summit meetings between EU leaders, chaired by a permanent president.

What does the European Council do?

  • Decides on the EU's overall direction and political priorities – but does not pass laws.
  • Deals with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels of intergovernmental cooperation
  • Sets the EU's common foreign & security policy, taking into account EU strategic interests and defence implications
  • Nominates and appoints candidates to certain high profile EU level roles, such as the ECB and the Commission

On each issue, the European Council can:

Composition

The European Council is made up of the heads of state or government of all EU countries, the European Commission President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy.

It is convened and chaired by its President, who is elected by the European Council itself for a once-renewable two-and-a-half-year term. The President represents the EU to the outside world.

How does the European Council work?

It usually meets 4 times a year – but the President can convene additional meetings to address urgent issues.

It generally decides issues by consensus – but by unanimity or qualified majority in some cases. Only the heads of state/government can vote.