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Council configurations

The Council of the EU is a single legal entity, but it meets in 10 different 'configurations', depending on the subject being discussed:

 

There is no hierarchy among the Council configurations, although the General Affairs Council has a special coordination role and is responsible for institutional, administrative and horizontal matters. The Foreign Affairs Council also has a special remit.

As the Council is a single legal entity, any of its 10 configurations can adopt a Council act that falls under the remit of another configuration. Therefore, with any legislative act adopted by the Council no mention is made of the configuration.

 

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General Affairs Council (GAC)

The General Affairs Council coordinates preparations for European Council meetings (the meeting of heads of state or government of the EU member states). Its task is to make sure that the work of the different Council configurations is consistent.

In addition, the General Affairs Council establishes the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (the EU's 7 year budget which provides funding for all programmes and activities), supervises the EU enlargement process and accession negotiations, and deals with issues related to the EU's institutional setup.

The European Council can also entrust the General Affairs Council to deal with any other issue.

How does the General Affairs Council work?

The General Affairs Council is mainly made up of the European Affairs ministers from all EU member states. The European Commission is usually represented by the Commissioner for inter-institutional relations, depending on the matter discussed.

GAC meetings are held once a month.

 

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Foreign Affairs Council  (FAC)

The Foreign Affairs Council is responsible for the EU's external action, covering a wide range of issues from foreign policy and defence to trade, development cooperation and humanitarian aid. It defines and implements the EU's foreign and security policy, which is based on the guidelines set by the European Council.

The FAC's main task, together with the European Commission and assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is to ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of the EU's external action.

The High Representative and the member states may submit proposals to the FAC in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy. The European Commission may also submit joint proposals with the High Representative in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy.

How does the Foreign Affairs Council work?

The Foreign Affairs Council is composed of the foreign ministers from all EU member states. Depending on the agenda, the Council also brings together:

  • defence ministers (Common Security and Defence Policy)
  • development ministers (development cooperation)
  • trade ministers (common commercial policy)

Meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council are chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Catherine Ashton.

However, when the Foreign Affairs Council discusses common commercial policy issues, it is presided by the representative of the EU member state holding the six-monthly rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

The High Representative is assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The Foreign Affairs council meets once a month.

 

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Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin)

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council is responsible for EU policy in 3 main areas: economic policy, taxation issues and the regulation of financial services.

Its remit also includes legal and practical issues regarding:

  • the EU's single currency - the euro
  • the coordination of EU positions for international level meetings, such as the G20, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
  • the financial aspects of international negotiations on measures to tackle climate change.

How does Ecofin work?

The Ecofin Council is made up of the economics and finance ministers from all member states. Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings.

There are also specific Ecofin sessions, attended by national budget ministers and the European Commissioner for financial programming and budget, to prepare the EU's annual budget.

Ecofin meetings generally take place once a month.

 

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Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA)

The Justice and Home Affairs Council develops cooperation and common policies on various cross-border issues, with the aim of building an EU-wide area of justice.

Cross-border issues include guaranteeing fundamental rights, free movement of citizens, civil protection, asylum and immigration matters, common investigations into cross-border organised crime, the EU's security strategy, including the fight against terrorism and organised crime, cybercrime and violent radicalisation.

How does the Justice and Home Affairs Council work?

The JHA Council is made up of justice and home affairs ministers from all EU member states. Justice ministers deal with judicial cooperation in both civil and criminal law, while home affairs ministers are responsible for, among other matters, border management and police cooperation.

The JHA Council usually meets every other month.

Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland do not fully participate in the implementation of certain measures relating to justice and home affairs, or their participation is subject to certain conditions.

 

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The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO)

The EPSCO Council works to increase employment levels and improve living and working conditions, ensuring a high level of human health and consumer protection in the EU.

How does the EPSCO Council work?

The EPSCO Council brings together ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU member states. Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings.

There are usually 4 EPSCO meetings a year. Two of the meetings are generally devoted exclusively to employment and social policy topics. 

 

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Competitiveness Council (COMPET)

The Competitiveness Council works to enhance competitiveness and increase growth in the EU. It deals with 4 major policy areas: internal market, industry, research and innovation and space.

How does the Competitiveness Council work?

Depending on the agenda, the Competitiveness Council brings together ministers responsible for trade, industry, research and innovation, economy, and space from all member states. Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings.

Meetings take place at least 4 times a year.

 

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Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (TTE)

The TTE Council works towards fulfilling EU objectives in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy: to establish modern, competitive and efficient markets and infrastructure, and to create trans-European transport, communications and energy networks.

How does the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council work?

The composition of the TTE Council and the number of its meetings varies according to the items on the agenda:

  • transport ministers usually meet 4 times a year
  • energy ministers meet 3 or 4 times a year
  • telecommunications ministers meet twice a year

Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings.

 

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Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH)

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopts legislation in a number of areas relating to the production of food, rural development and the management of fisheries.

How does the Agriculture and Fisheries Council work?

The AGRIFISH Council brings together ministers from each EU member state. Most member states are represented by one minister for both sectors, although some send two ministers – one for agriculture and another for fisheries.

The European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development or the European Commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries also takes part in meetings.

Meetings usually take place once a month.

 

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Environment Council (ENV)

The Environment Council is responsible for EU environment policy, including environmental protection, prudent use of resources and the protection of human health. It also deals with international environmental issues, especially in the area of climate change.

How does the Environment Council work?

The Environment Council is made up of ministers responsible for matters specifically relating to the environment. The European Commission is represented in meetings by both the Commissioner for the environment and the Commissioner for climate action.

There are about 4 Environment Council meetings a year. 

 

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Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council (EYCS)

The policy areas covered by the EYCS Council are the responsibility of member states. The EU's role in areas of education, youth, culture and sport is therefore to provide a framework for cooperation between member states, for exchange of information and experience on areas of common interest.

In some cases, where the treaties allow, the EU may also take legislative action. For example, on audiovisual matters and the mutual recognition of diplomas.

Education policy is also one of the key components of the Europe 2020 strategy.

How does the EYCS Council work?

The EYCS Council is composed of the ministers responsible for education, culture, youth, media, communication and sport from all EU member states. The precise composition of the Council depends on the items discussed in a particular meeting.

Council meetings are also attended by a representative from the European Commission – usually the Commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth.

The EYCS Council meets 3 or 4 times a year; twice in its full configuration. 

 

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