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 October 2016
President Donald Tusk held a press conference at the end of the second day of the European Council meeting on 21 October 2016.
The European Council adopted conclusions on migration, trade, global and economic issues and external relations.
President Donald Tusk spoke about the outcome of the first day of the European Council meeting on 20 October 2016.
The European Council adopted conclusions on external relations.
The European Council adopted conclusions on migration.
Before the start of the European Council meeting, President Donald Tusk highlighted the main issues to be discussed.
President Donald Tusk congratulated the new Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković
Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the tripartite social summit and ahead of the European Council meeting
The Autumn Social summit held a discussion on "Addressing Europe's common challenges: generating growth, creating jobs and ensuring fairness".
On 18 October 2016 President Donald Tusk sent an invitation letter to the European Council meeting to the EU heads of state or government.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 17-21 October 2016
President Donald Tusk addressed a congratulations letter to António Guterres, next Secretary-General of the United Nations
Presidents Tusk and Juncker sent a letter of condolences to Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn on the passing away of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
President Donald Tusk sent a letter of congratulations to Kersti Kaljulaid upon taking the oath of office as President of the Republic of Estonia.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 10-14 October 2016
President Donald Tusk opened the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, Partnership for Prosperity and Peace.
Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk 01-07 October 2016
President Donald Tusk attended the commemorative ceremony of the 75th anniversary of Babi Yar massacre in Kiev
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 the 27 heads of state or government
The President of the European Council will host the 18th EU-Ukraine summit. Leaders will discuss EU-Ukraine relations.
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.
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.
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.