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 24-29 January 2017
President Donald Tusk presented the outcome of the European Council meeting on 15 December 2016 to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg
President Donald Tusk addressed the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb during the ceremonial session commemorating the 25th anniversary of the International Recognition of the Republic of Croatia
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 16-22 January 2017
At the official opening ceremony of the Maltese EU presidency in Valletta, President Tusk welcomed the excellent timing for Malta to take up the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk following his meting with Bill English, Prime Minister of New Zealand.
President Tusk addressed a letter to António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal on the passing of Mário Soares.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 9-15 January 2017
President Donald Tusk congratulates new Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 17-23 December 2016
After the informal meeting held on 15 December 2016 in Brussels, the 27 heads of state or government and Presidents of the European Council and Commission issued a statement.
The European Council on 15 December 2016 adopted conclusions on migration, security, economic and social development, youth, Cyprus, and external relations.
President Donald Tusk spoke about the outcome of the European Council meeting held on 15 December 2016
The Europan Council adopted conclusions on migration and Cyprus.
On 15 December 2016 the European Council adopted conclusions on Ukraine.
President Donald Tusk met with Brita Hagi Hasan from Aleppo in the margins of the European Council meeting and invited him to be heard by EU leaders.
President Donald Tusk, President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen issued a joint declaration after their meeting in Brussels
On 13 December 2016 President Donald Tusk sent an invitation letter to the European Council meeting to the EU heads of state or government.
President Donald Tusk congratulates new Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
Joint op-ed by President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
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 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 will meet 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.