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Role: Defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union
Members: Heads of state or government of EU countries, European Council President, European Commission President
President: Charles Michel
Established in: 1974 (informal forum), 1992 (formal status), 2009 (official EU institution)
Location: Brussels (Belgium)
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 European 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:
- ask the European Commission to make a proposal to address it
- pass it on to the Council of the EU to deal with
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. Among other things, 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.