The European Council is one of the main institutions of the European Union (EU). It is composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, as well as the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
The European Council meets several times a year to set the EU’s political agenda and provide direction and guidance for the EU’s institutions.
The European Council was established in 1974 as an informal forum for EU leaders to discuss common challenges and coordinate their policies. It was given formal status by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 and now has a range of responsibilities, including:
- Setting the EU’s overall political priorities and direction: The European Council sets the strategic direction for the EU and is responsible for ensuring that the EU’s policies and actions are in line with the interests of its member states and citizens.
- Dealing with crises and challenges: The European Council plays a key role in responding to crises and challenges facing the EU, such as the economic and financial crisis, the migration crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Negotiating and approving EU legislation: The European Council, together with the European Parliament, is responsible for adopting EU legislation. The European Council sets the overall political direction for EU legislation, while the Council of the EU (composed of ministers from the member states) is responsible for negotiating the details of the legislation.
- Representing the EU in international affairs: The European Council represents the EU in its relations with non-EU countries and international organizations, such as the United Nations.
The President of the European Council is appointed for a renewable term of two and a half years and chairs the meetings of the European Council.