The role of the European Council in nominations and appointments

European Council

The European Council plays an important role in certain appointment procedures for high profile EU level roles. In particular, it is responsible for:

  • electing the President of the European Council
  • proposing the President of the European Commission
  • appointing the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
  • officially appointing the entire body of Commissioners
  • appointing the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), including the ECB president

President of the European Council

The current European Council President is Donald Tusk. He took office on 1 December 2014, replacing Herman Van Rompuy. 

Election of the President of the European Council

The European Council elects its own president. This requires a qualified majority. The president holds the post for a 2.5 year term, renewable once. 

Proposal for the President of the European Commission

Following the European Parliament elections, the European Council has to propose a candidate for the post of President of the European Commission. When deciding on their candidate, the European Council takes into account the result of the European Parliament election.

The European Parliament has to approve the proposed candidate by a majority of its members (a minimum of 376 MEPs). If the European Council's candidate doesn't get a majority approval in the Parliament vote, the European Council has to propose a new candidate. This has to be done within a month of the failed vote in the Parliament.

The European Parliament then uses the same procedure - majority vote of all MEPs - to approve the new proposed candidate.

This procedure is set out in article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Appointment of the high representative

The European Council is responsible for appointing the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The decision on the proposed candidate requires a qualified majority.

The European Council can also decide to end the high representative's 5 year term of office, again with a qualified majority.  

This procedure is set out in article 18 of the TEU.

Appointment of the European Commission

The European Council officially appoints the entire European Commission. The Parliament votes on the body of Commissioners - the Commission President, the high representative and the other Commissioners - using the consent method (majority of votes cast).

Once the Parliament has given its consent, the European Council officially appoints the European Commission. The European Council's decision requires a qualified majority.

This procedure is set out in article 17 of the TEU.

European Central Bank appointments

The European Council appoints all 6 members of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), which includes both the ECB President and Vice-President, plus 4 other members.

The European Council takes its decision on the basis of a Council recommendation. It also consults the European Parliament and the ECB's Governing Council (composed of the 6 members of the Executive Board, plus the governors of the central banks of the 19 euro area countries). The European Council then takes its decision through a qualified majority vote.

This procedure is set out in article 283 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).