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 01-07 October 2016
President Donald Tusk attented the commemorative ceremony of the 75th anniversary of Babi Yar massacre in Kiev
Presidents Tusk and Juncker sent a letter of condolences to President of Israel Ravlin on the passing away of former President Shimon Peres
Updated weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 24-30 September 2016
President Tusk received the letters of credentials from three new ambassadors to the European Union
President Donald Tusk made some remarks before the start of the summit on migration along the Balkan route organised by Chancellor Kern in Vienna.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on behalf of the European Union, President Tusk conveyed that EU wants a free and open world governed by the rule of law.
President Donald Tusk addressed the US hosted leaders' summit on the global refugee crisis held on the margins of 71st UN General Assembly.
President Donald Tusk is in New York for the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly and spoke at the UN summit for refugees and migrants.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 18-23 September 2016.
During the press conference of the Bratislava summit President Tusk presented the outcome of the discussions and the Bratislava Roadmap.
Declaration and roadmap following the Bratislava Summit of 27 member states devoted to diagnose the present state of the European Union and discuss a common future.
Upon his arrival to Bratislava, President Tusk presented his expectations for the meeting of the 27 leaders.
President Donald Tusk addressed a letter to the 27 heads of state or government before their informal meeting in Bratislava on Friday 16 September 2016.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 12-18 September 2016
At a press conference with Prime Minister Löfven, President Tusk outlined the main priorities for the European Union to be discussed at the Bratislava meeting: irregular migration, terrorism and fears of globalisation.
President Donald Tusk and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas met in Tallinn. They focused their discussions on the preparation of the Bratislava summit.
European Council President Tusk and Latvian Prime Minister Kučinskis met in Riga as part of the preparations for the Bratislava meeting.
President Donald Tusk and the UK Prime Minister Theresa May met in London. President Tusk informed PM May about the expectations of the Bratislava meeting. They also discussed the upcoming Brexit talks.
President Donald Tusk met Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Dublin. Their discussion focused on the preparation for the summit in Bratislava.
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.
Informal meeting of the 27 heads of state or government
In October, the European Council will focus 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.
The conference will gather up to 70 countries and 20 international organisations and agencies. It will be co-hosted by the EU and the government of Afghanistan.
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.
The summit focused on the global economy, foreign policy and the migration and refugee crisis.
Presidents Tusk and Juncker invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Brussels for the 13th EU-India summit. It will take place on 30 March.
EU leaders discussed further steps to address the migration crisis.
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 main theme of this summit is: "A strong partnership for job creation and inclusive growth".
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.