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Foreign Affairs Council configuration (FAC)

Council of the EU

The Foreign Affairs Council is responsible for the EU's external action, which includes foreign policy, defence and security, trade, development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

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

However, when the FAC 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 Foreign Affairs Council meets once a month.

About foreign affairs policy

Together with the European Commission and with the assistance of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council's main role is to ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of the EU's external action.

It also defines and implements the EU's foreign and security policy, based on guidelines set by the European Council. In particular, the Council can launch EU crisis management actions, both civil and military, in pursuit of the EU's objectives of peace and security. It can also adopt measures needed to implement the EU's foreign and security policy, including possible sanctions.

As it is an exclusive competence of the EU, the Council adopts measures implementing the EU's common commercial policy together with the European Parliament. This includes trade and investment relations, intellectual property rights and foreign direct investment. In trade policy, the Commission is responsible for negotiating and managing trade agreements involving tariff amendments, customs and trade provisions and protective measures. However, the Council plays a central role as it mandates the Commission to open negotiations and gives negotiating directives to the Commission.