What is the European Council?

The European Council is the EU’s key strategic and crisis-solving body, and the most senior of the seven EU institutions. The members of the European Council are the 28 Presidents and Prime Ministers of the member states and the President of the European Commission.

At the institution’s head is the President of the European Council, currently Donald Tusk, who sets its agenda. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security is present when foreign affairs are discussed. The President of the European Central Bank is also invited, depending on the agenda. The President of the European Parliament attends the start of each meeting and outlines that institution’s views.

Although it has no legislative power, the European Council determines the EU’s general political direction. It addresses topics that can only be resolved collectively by the political leaders of EU member governments, and deals with sensitive and crisis issues. It has specific responsibilities in EU economic and fiscal policy coordination, and defines strategic guidelines for the area of freedom, security and justice. It also makes appointments to other EU institutions, including the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

It usually meets at least four times a year, but in recent years due to the financial and economic crisis has convened far more frequently.

Decisions in the European Council are usually taken by consensus. Its conclusions, agreed by all participants, identify specific concerns and outline particular actions to take or goals to achieve. Its recommendations are taken up by the other EU institutions and may ultimately result in legislation.

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