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 24-30 April 2017
President Tusk received the letters of credentials from five new ambassadors to the European Union.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 3-9 April 2017
In Athens, President Donald Tusk discussed progress made on the Greece review talks and the migration crisis with PM Alexis Tsipras. He also condemned in the strongest possible terms the gas attack in Idlib.
In Sofia, President Donald Tusk took part in a presentation about measures taken by Bulgaria to protect EU external border. He also met with President Rumen Radev to discuss migration, Schengen and Brexit.
During his visit to Skopje, President Donald Tusk talked to press together with the President Gjorge Ivanov, highlighting the need for cooperation on migration, the country's European perspective and the domestic political situation.
Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated new President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting in Ljubljana with Prime Minister of Slovenia Miro Cerar.
In a press conference held in Malta following a meeting with Prime Minister Muscat, President Donald Tusk presented the draft guidelines for the Brexit talks
President Donald Tusk delivered his speech at the European People's Party congress in Malta
President Donald Tusk comments on the UK notification of its intention to leave the EU
Statement by the EU27 leaders following the Article 50 notification by the United Kingdom.
Updated weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 27 March - 2 April 2017
President Tusk and Prime Minister Kvirikashvili discussed EU-Georgia relations and welcomed the entry into force of the visa free travel regime
Declaration of the leaders of 27 member states and of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission adopted on 25 March 2017
President Donald Tusk delivered his speech at the ceremony in Rome attended by the 27 EU Heads of State and Government and the Presidents of the EU institutions
Information about accreditation requirements for the Special European Council (article 50) in April
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 24 March - 2 April 2017
Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker met the European Social Partners in Rome before the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties
President Donald Tusk, President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe held a joint meeting in Brussels to advance EU-Japan trade agenda and discuss next G7 summit.
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 summit will be held in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July 2017.
The G7 is a forum for dialogue at the highest level attended by the leaders of the world's most important industrially advanced democracies.
The European Council, in an EU27 format (without the UK), will adopt the guidelines for the Brexit negotiations.
Informal meeting of EU heads of state or government took place in Rome on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties.
The EU leaders looked 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.
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.