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The European Council

The European Council defines the EU's general political direction and priorities. It consists of the heads of state or government of the EU's member states, together with its President and the European Commission President.

The Council of the EU

The Council of the EU is the institution representing the member states' governments. Also known informally as the EU Council, it is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies.

The Council is an essential EU decision-maker. It negotiates and adopts new EU legislation, adapts it when necessary, and coordinates policies. In most cases, the Council decides together with the European Parliament through the ordinary legislative procedure, also known as 'codecision'. 

In a number of very specific areas, the Council takes decisions using special legislative procedures - the consent procedure and the consultation procedure - where the role of the Parliament is limited. 

Topics

The European Council and the Council of the EU are active in a wide range of areas, including:

In focus

Towards a new international climate change agreement

The Council is currently handling the EU's input into negotiations for a new global climate change agreement covering all countries signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This includes the EU and its 28 member states.

The new agreement aims to achieve greater cuts in global emissions and reduce emissions to a level that will keep global warming below 2°C. In October 2014, the European Council endorsed an EU target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This target forms the basis of the EU's contribution to negotiations on the new agreement.

The agreement is set to be adopted at the Paris climate conference at the end of 2015 and implemented from 2020. A full negotiating text should be ready before May 2015.

In focus

Towards a new international climate change agreement

The Council is currently handling the EU's input into negotiations for a new global climate change agreement covering all countries signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This includes the EU and its 28 member states.

The new agreement aims to achieve greater cuts in global emissions and reduce emissions to a level that will keep global warming below 2°C. In October 2014, the European Council endorsed an EU target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This target forms the basis of the EU's contribution to negotiations on the new agreement.

The agreement is set to be adopted at the Paris climate conference at the end of 2015 and implemented from 2020. A full negotiating text should be ready before May 2015.