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The European Council

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

The Council of the EU

The Council of the EU represents 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.

What is the Council?

The European Council and the Council of the EU are two very closely linked institutions. They have similar names and share the same buildings and staff - the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC). However, they have very different roles and membership. 

Topics

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

In focus

Working towards better air quality standards across the EU

The clean air package aims to substantially reduce air pollution across the EU. It sets out objectives to reduce the health and environmental impacts of air pollution by 2030, and contains legislative proposals to implement stricter standards for emissions and air pollution.

Poor air quality causes many health issues, such as asthma and cardiovascular problems. These health issues are particularly bad in built-up urban areas, where air quality is generally lower. Poor air quality is also the number one cause of premature death across the EU, and actually has a higher impact than road traffic accidents. Implementing the clean air package would result in improved air quality for all EU citizens, and lower healthcare costs for governments. 

The Council has already reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on one element of the package - measures to reduce air pollution from medium-sized combustion plants. Work on the other two elements - the national emission ceilings directive (NEC directive) and the Gothenburg Protocol - is ongoing.

Creating a free and secure digital single market for Europe

The digital single market strategy is the EU's plan to create a free and secure digital single market in which people can shop online across borders and businesses can sell across the EU wherever they are in the EU.   

The strategy, which includes a number of legislative and non-legislative measures, has three objectives:   

  • making it easier for consumers and businesses to access online products and services across Europe
  • improving conditions for digital networks and services to grow and thrive
  • boosting the growth of the European digital economy

The strategy was discussed at the European Council on 25-26 June 2015, where EU leaders also adopted conclusions highlighting the importance of the digital single market. The strategy and its various proposals has also been discussed at several recent Council meetings. 

In focus

Working towards better air quality standards across the EU

The clean air package aims to substantially reduce air pollution across the EU. It sets out objectives to reduce the health and environmental impacts of air pollution by 2030, and contains legislative proposals to implement stricter standards for emissions and air pollution.

Poor air quality causes many health issues, such as asthma and cardiovascular problems. These health issues are particularly bad in built-up urban areas, where air quality is generally lower. Poor air quality is also the number one cause of premature death across the EU, and actually has a higher impact than road traffic accidents. Implementing the clean air package would result in improved air quality for all EU citizens, and lower healthcare costs for governments. 

The Council has already reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on one element of the package - measures to reduce air pollution from medium-sized combustion plants. Work on the other two elements - the national emission ceilings directive (NEC directive) and the Gothenburg Protocol - is ongoing.

Creating a free and secure digital single market for Europe

The digital single market strategy is the EU's plan to create a free and secure digital single market in which people can shop online across borders and businesses can sell across the EU wherever they are in the EU.   

The strategy, which includes a number of legislative and non-legislative measures, has three objectives:   

  • making it easier for consumers and businesses to access online products and services across Europe
  • improving conditions for digital networks and services to grow and thrive
  • boosting the growth of the European digital economy

The strategy was discussed at the European Council on 25-26 June 2015, where EU leaders also adopted conclusions highlighting the importance of the digital single market. The strategy and its various proposals has also been discussed at several recent Council meetings.