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European Council


  • Role: Defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union
  • Members: Heads of state or government of EU countries, European Commission President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy
  • President: Donald Tusk
  • Established in: 1974 (informal forum), 1992 (formal status), 2009 (official EU institution)
  • Location: Brussels (Belgium)
  • Website: European Council

The European Council brings together EU leaders to set the EU's political agenda. It represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries.

One of the EU's 7 official institutions, the Council takes the form of (usually quarterly) summit meetings between EU leaders, chaired by a permanent president.

What does the European Council do?

  • Decides on the EU's overall direction and political priorities – but does not pass laws.
  • Deals with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels of intergovernmental cooperation
  • Sets the EU's common foreign & security policy, taking into account EU strategic interests and defence implications
  • Nominates and appoints candidates to certain high profile EU level roles, such as the ECB and the Commission

On each issue, the European Council can:


The European Council is made up of the heads of state or government of all EU countries, the European Commission President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy.

It is convened and chaired by its President, who is elected by the European Council itself for a once-renewable two-and-a-half-year term. The President represents the EU to the outside world.

How does the European Council work?

It usually meets 4 times a year – but the President can convene additional meetings to address urgent issues.

It generally decides issues by consensus – but by unanimity or qualified majority in some cases. Only the heads of state/government can vote.

The European Council and you

You can put general about the Council's work to its Public Information Service.

European Council

Contact details


Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175

B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel


+32 2 281 61 11
+32 2 281 69 34
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