The President's role
The current President of the European Council is Donald Tusk. He replaced Herman Van Rompuy on 1 December 2014.
The role of the President is set out in article 15 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU). In particular, the President of the European Council is responsible for:
- chairing European Council meetings and driving forward its work
- ensuring the preparation of European Council meetings and the continuity of their work, in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council configuration
- helping to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council
- presenting a report to the European Parliament after each European Council meeting
The President of the European Council also ensures the external representation of the EU at the level of heads of state or government:
- on issues related to the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), alongside the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who helps put into effect the CFSP and ensure its unity, consistency and effectiveness
- at international summits, usually alongside the President of the European Commission
History of the European Council President function
The position of President of the European Council became a permanent and full-time role following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.
Previously, the European Council had been an informal body and the head of the European Council was an unofficial position. The role was held by the head of state or government of the member state holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The President of the European Council is elected by the European Council by a qualified majority.
He is elected for a 2.5 year term, which is renewable once. In accordance with established practice, the rotating presidency is in charge of the coordination of the election process. During the European Council, which discusses the election of the President, it's the Prime Minister representing the presidency that chairs this part of the meeting.
The President may not hold a national office at the same time.
The European Council and its President are assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU (GSC).
The President also has his own private office, the Cabinet of the President. His staff and his office are located in the Council's Europa building in Brussels, Belgium.
The President of the European Council represents the EU at 3 main types of international summits:
- Bilateral summits
They are organised between the EU and its strategic partners. Such summits are held on a regular basis, usually once a year, with countries such as Japan, the US, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and China. The location for the summits alternates between Brussels and the country concerned.
- Multilateral summits at international level
The EU is either a member or invited to take part as a key international player, such as the G7, G8, G20 and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
- Multilateral summits at EU level
These summits include the Eastern Partnership, EU-Africa, EU-ASEM and EU-CELAC. Traditionally, when it is the EU's turn to host such summits, they have been hosted by the member state holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. From 2014, they are also hosted by the Council of the EU in Brussels. Participants at these summits are the heads of state or government from all EU member states, plus the European Council President, the European Commission President and the relevant heads of state or government from the participating countries.