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 8-12 February 2016
At the London conference on Syria President Donald Tusk announced the EU pledge of more than € 3 billion to assist the Syrian people
The EU annouces it will triple its support to Syria and the region at the London conference
On 2 February 2016 President Tusk presented his proposal for a new settlement for the UK within the European Union
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 31 January - 5 February 2016
On 25 January 2016 President Donald Tusk sent a letter of congratulations to the future President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
On 25 January 2016 President Donald Tusk sent a letter of congratulations to the new Prime Minister of Croatia Tihomir Orešković.
President Donald Tusk and Prime Minister of Lebanon Tamman Salam met in Brussels and discussed common challenges of refugee crisis, counter-terrorism and Syria.
President Donald Tusk addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the outcome of the European Council of 17-18 December 2015.
President Tusk and President Duda discussed current challenges in European politics, including the UK referendum, migration issues, the situation in Ukraine and energy security.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 18 -22 January 2016
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 11-15 January 2016
At their meeting in December, EU leaders focused on 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.
On 18 December 2015 President Tusk held a press conference at the end of the second session of the European Council meeting.
The European Council had a political exchange of views on the UK plans for an (in/out) referendum.
Press conference by President Donald Tusk following the first working session of the European Council held on 17 December 2015.
On 17 December 2015, EU leaders adopted conclusions on the implementation of the strategy aimed at stemming the unprecedented migratory flows Europe is facing.
On 17 December 2015 President Donald Tusk highlighted the main topics of the upcoming European Council meeting
On 16 December 2015 President Donald Tusk addressed the press before his meeting with President Poroshenko of Ukraine together with Presidents Juncker and Schulz.
On 15 December 2015 President Donald Tusk sent an invitation letter to the European Council meeting to the EU Heads of State or Government.
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 February European Council will focus on United Kingdom and migration issues.
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.
An international summit to discuss migration issues between EU and African leaders took place in Valletta on 11-12 November 2015.
EU leaders focused on migration at their meeting in October. They also take stock of discussions on the Economic and Monetary Union and the plans for the referendum in the UK.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, spoke at the UN 70th General Assembly on behalf of the EU.
The informal meeting of EU leaders on 23 September 2015 discussed an overall approach to the refugee crisis and the necessity to establish a credible European migration policy.
The 8th bilateral summit between the EU and the Republic of Korea took place in Seoul on 15 September 2015.
At the 17th bilateral EU-China summit, leaders celebrated the 40th anniversary of EU-China diplomatic relations.
EU leaders addressed migration, security challenges and economic issues.
Leaders of the EU and Mexico agreed to foster a closer and stronger strategic partnership at the 7th EU-Mexico summit.
On 10-11 June 2015, the EU-CELAC summit brought together European, Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Brussels to strengthen relations between both regions
The 2015 G7 summit in Germany focused on the global economy and climate change as well as on key foreign, security and development issues.
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.