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About the Council of the EU

The Council of the EU is the institution representing the member states' governments. Also informally known as the EU Council, it is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies.

1. What does the Council do?

The Council is an essential EU decision-maker. It negotiates and adopts new EU legislation, adapts it when necessary, and coordinates policies.


2. How does the Council work?

The Council is a single legal entity, but it meets in 10 different "configurations", depending on the subject being discussed.

It takes decisions by a simple majority, qualified majority or unanimous vote, depending on the decision that needs to be taken.

The Council is supported by the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) and more than 150 highly specialised working parties and committees, known as the 'Council preparatory bodies'. These bodies examine legislative proposals, and carry out studies and other preparatory work which prepares the ground for Council decisions.

The Council of the EU should not be confused with:


3. The presidency of the Council of the EU

The presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among member states every six months. The presidency chairs meetings at all levels: Council, Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) and working parties. It puts forward guidelines and draws up the compromises needed for the Council to take decisions.

The presidency of the Council should not be confused with:


4. The General Secretariat of the Council of the EU

The General Secretariat of the Council (GSC) is responsible for assisting the European Council and the Council of the EU, including its presidencies, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) and the other Council committees and working parties. 

 The GSC mostly recruits its staff from other EU institutions or from reserve lists of successful candidates in EPSO competitions. There are occasionally vacancies for highly specialised profiles or temporary staff.

The GSC also runs a traineeships scheme offering three types of traineeship: Paid traineeships, a traineeship forming a compulsory training period during a student's studies, and traineeships for national officials.

The General Secretariat of the Council of the EU (GSC) regularly launches calls for tenders for supply, service and works contracts.

Key dates

  • 1952 - First meeting of the 'Special Council of Ministers' on 8-10 September.
  • 1958 - First meeting of the 'Council of the EEC' on 25 January.
  • 1987 - The Single European Act launched legislative cooperation between the Council and the Parliament, and introduced qualified majority voting.
  • 1993 - The Treaty on European Union made the first steps towards Economic and Monetary Union and the euro. 
  • 2003 - The Treaty of Nice introduced institutional reform.
  • 2009 - The Treaty of Lisbon changed qualified majority voting, extended its use, and established equal law-making power between the Parliament and the Council.

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