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 27 February - 5 March 2017
President Tusk received the letters of credentials from four new ambassadors to the European Union
President Donald Tusk received US Vice President Mike Pence in Brussels and discussed transatlantic relations.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 20 - 26 February 2017.
On 17 February 2017 President Tusk met with Romania's Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu in Brussels to discuss the main topics on the EU agenda as well as recent developments in Romania and the government's priorities.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 13-20 February 2017
On 20 February 2017, President Donald Tusk will meet Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States at the European Council headquarters in Brussels.
President Donald Tusk had a meeting with President Van der Bellen and Chancellor Kern to discuss the upcoming Austrian presidency, migration challenges, and the future of the EU.
President Donald Tusk congratulates new German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
President Tusk received the letter of credentials from one new ambassador to the European Union
Remarks by President Donald Tusk following his meeting with Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 6 - 12 February 2017
At the press conference after the session on migration at the Malta summit, President Tusk highlighted the main results of the meeting.
In their declaration adopted at the informal summit in Malta, EU leaders focused on measures to stem the flow of migration from Libya to Italy.
Upon arrival in Malta President Donald Tusk outlined his expectations for the informal meeting of the EU heads of state or government.
President Donald Tusk had a meeting with Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, to discuss our cooperation in fighting illegal migration, human trafficking and terrorism.
President Donald Tusk participated in the Baltic Council and met in Tallinn the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
President Donald Tusk sent a letter to the 27 heads of state or government setting out his reflections on the future of the European Union.
President Donald Tusk addressed a letter to the EU heads of state or government before their informal meeting in Malta on Friday 3 February 2017.
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 EU heads of state or government takes place in Rome on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties.
The EU leaders will then look at a number of the most pressing issues, including economy, security and external relations.
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 EU heads of state or government met to discuss migration and prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties.
The European Council discussed 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.
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.