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 29 August - 5 September 2016
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 15-19 August 2016
The Heads of State and Government of Asia and Europe, the President of the European Council, President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of ASEAN issued three documents.
At the final press conference of the 11th ASEM in Ulaanbaatar, President Tusk summarised the results of the summit.
Presidents Tusk and Juncker addressed a letter to Chinae Premier Li on the overcapacity in the steel sector.
Statement by Presidents Tusk and Juncker and High Representative Mogherini on behalf of the EU Member States present at the ASEM Summit on the situation in Turkey.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 16-22 July 2016
After the EU-Japan meeting in the margins of the ASEM summit in Mongolia, President Tusk underlined the need to continue to fight terrorism, pledged to conclude free trade talks with Japan and reassured partners that EU will remain an acting global player.
Statement of ASEM Leaders on International Terrorism. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 15 July 2016.
President Donald Tusk delivered his remarks at the opening ceremony of the ASEM summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
President Donald Tusk congratulated the new British Prime Minister Theresa May
At the press conference held at the end of the EU-China summit in Beijing President Donald Tusk presented the main areas of discussions.
President Donald Tusk made his opening remarks at the 18th EU-China summit in Beijing
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 12-16 July 2016
Presidents Tusk and Juncker and NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg signed in Warsaw an EU-NATO declaration marking the importance of further strengthening of the EU-NATO cooperation.
Joint declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the Secretary General of NATO.
President Donald Tusk, President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Barack Obama held an EU-US Leaders meeting in Warsaw in the margins of the NATO summit.
After the debate in Strasbourg, President Donald Tusk delivered his final remarks to the European Parliament plenary session
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 conference will gather up to 70 countries and 30 international organisations and agencies. It will be co-hosted by the EU and the government of Afghanistan.
Informal meeting of the 27 heads of state or government
G20 leaders will meet in Hangzhou, China, on 4-5 September 2016.
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.
A meeting of the EU heads of state or government with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was held on 7 March in Brussels. It was followed by a meeting of the members of the European Council.
Discussions at the European Council were dominated by the status of the UK and the ongoing migration and refugee crisis.
At their meeting in December, EU leaders discussed migration topics, the fight against terrorism, the Five Presidents' report on the Economic and Monetary Union, the completion of the single market, and the UK plans for the referendum.
Paris hosted the 21st session of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP 21) which reached a new international agreement on climate change.
The 28 EU heads of state or government held a meeting with Turkey. They agreed on a joint action plan to address the migration crisis and to re-energise Turkey's accession process.
The world's leading economies have concluded the G20 summit in Antalya Turkey affirming their resolve to fight terrorism and address the migration and refugee crisis.
EU leaders held an informal meeting to accelerate the implementation of the decisions taken on the migration crisis and cooperation with Turkey.
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.