The European Council
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The European Council defines the EU's overall political direction and priorities. It is not one of the EU's legislating institutions, so does not negotiate or adopt EU laws. Instead it sets the EU's policy agenda, traditionally by adopting 'conclusions' during European Council meetings which identify issues of concern and actions to take.
More recently, the European Council adopted a 'strategic agenda' of priority areas for longer-term EU action and focus.
Members of the European Council
The members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part in European Council meetings when foreign affairs issues are discussed.
The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by unanimity or by qualified majority.
If a vote is taken, neither the European Council President nor the Commission President take part.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 13 - 18 December 2016
President Donald Tusk congratulates new French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve
President Tusk received the letters of credentials from five new ambassadors to the European Union
On 4 December 2016 President Donald Tusk congratulates Alexander Van der Bellen on his election as Federal President of the Republic of Austria.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 5-11 December 2016
Following their meetings, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the President of the Republic of Tunisia Beji Caid Essebsi have approved a joint press release.
At their meeting, President Tusk and Prime Minister Kvirikashvili discussed EU-Georgia relations including reforms and visa liberalisation.
President Donald Tusk replied to Mr Tomlinson and some UK MPs on their concern regarding the status of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living and working in Europe.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 28 November - 4 December 2016
The 18th EU-Ukraine summit provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss the latest developments in their bilateral relations, including reforms and visas.
President Donald Tusk congratulated the new Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 21-27 November 2016
President Donald Tusk congratulated President-elect of Bulgaria Rumen Radev
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 14-20 November 2016
President Tusk received the letters of credentials from six new ambassadors to the European Union
In his statement, President Tusk underlined the strong links and shared values between EU and US, and called for European and Transatlantic unity
Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker congratulated Donald J. Trump, the President-elect of the United States of America
Information about accreditation requirements for the EU-Ukraine Summit in November
Information about accreditation requirements for the European Council meeting in December
European Council meetings
The European Council meets at least twice every 6 months. Its meetings, often referred to as 'EU summits' are held in Brussels, in the Justus Lipsius building.
Meetings are chaired by the European Council President. The President can also convene extraordinary European Council meetings when needed.
The President of the European Parliament attends the start of each meeting, to outline the European Parliament's views. Other people, such as the President of the European Central Bank, may be invited to attend meetings, depending on the issues being discussed.
The tripartite summit is a forum for dialogue between the EU institutions at president level and the European social partners at top management level.
The heads of state or government of the 27 will meet in Malta to continue a political reflection on further development of an EU with 27 member countries.
The European Council will discuss the most pressing issues, including migration, security, economy and youth, and external relations.
The President of the European Council hosted the 18th EU-Ukraine summit. Leaders discussed EU-Ukraine relations.
EU and Canada signed a free trade agreement and strategic partnership agreement.
The October European Council focused on migration, trade and external relations.
The Tripartite Social Summit is a forum for dialogue between the EU institutions at president level and the European social partners at top management level.
On 5 October, the European Union and the government of Afghanistan co-hosted the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. This conference brought together 75 countries and 26 international organisations and agencies.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, spoke at the UN 71st General Assembly on behalf of the EU.
The heads of state or government of the 27 met in Bratislava to begin a political reflection on further development of an EU with 27 member countries.
G20 leaders met in Hangzhou, China, on 4-5 September 2016 and adopted a communique.
At ASEM's 20th anniversary, leaders defined the future direction for cooperation and discussed economic cooperation, connectivity and global and regional challenges.
The 18th bilateral summit between the EU and China focused on political and economic relations as well as global and regional issues.
Leaders focused on projecting stability to the East and South and on Afghanistan. The EU and NATO signed a joint declaration. Presidents Tusk and Juncker met US President Barack Obama for an EU-US leaders meeting.
The European Council discussed the outcome of the UK referendum held on 23 June 2016.
History of the European Council
The European Council was created in 1974 as an informal forum for discussion between heads of state or government of the EU member states. It soon developed a role as the body responsible for fixing EU goals and priorities.
Under the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, the European Council acquired a formal status and role - to provide the impetus and general political guidelines for the EU.
In 2009, following the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council became one of the 7 EU institutions.