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Rules of Procedure of the European Council

The Rules of Procedure of the European Council establish the organisation and functioning thereof. The Rules lay down an internal structure for the European Council and define the roles of the President and the General Secretariat. The Rules of Procedure also cover the organisation of European Council meetings. In particular, they establish rules relating to the preparation of meetings, voting and publication of the institution’s work.


European Council Decision 2009/882/EU of 1 December 2009 adopting its Rules of Procedure.


The European Council shall consist of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the European Union (EU), its President and the President of the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall also take part in its work.

The European Council has a role in driving policy. It defines the priorities for the building of Europe and indicates the directions that European policies should take.

Preparation for European Council meetings

The President of the European Council establishes an agenda, as well as guidelines and draft decisions for the European Council. These documents are first sent to the General Affairs Council. In order to prepare said documents, the President of the European Council must act in close collaboration with the President of the Commission and the member of the European Council representing the Member State that is exercising the Presidency of the Council.

The documents are then debated at the General Affairs Council. The latter also receives contributions from other Council configurations. The General Affairs Council establishes a provisional agenda at a final session, preceding the date of the European Council meeting by five days.

The European Council sets the final agenda at the start of its meeting.

Conduct of European Council meetings

Meetings are held in Brussels except in exceptional circumstances. The European Council meets twice every six months, convened by its President. The President may also convene an extraordinary session if necessary. When the agenda so requires, the members of the European Council may decide each to be accompanied by a minister and, in the case of the President of the Commission, by a member of the Commission.

The Members of the European Council take decisions by consensus except where the Treaties provide otherwise. Before voting, the President of the European Council must check the quorum. The quorum must include at least two-thirds of the members of the European Council. The President of the European Council and the President of the Commission are not, however, included in the quorum. In addition, they do not hold voting rights within the European Council.

Furthermore, tThe President of the European Parliament may be invited to be heard by the European Council. Similarly, meetings with the representatives of third States, international organisations or other persons may be held outside the European Council.

Publication of European Council work, publication and notification of Acts

Meetings of the European Council are not public. Nevertheless, the European Council may decide to make the results of votes public, as well as explanations of the voting, if applicable.

After each meeting, the General Secretariat of the European Council has to produce minutes including:

  • details of documents submitted to the European Council;
  • details of approved conclusions;
  • decisions taken;
  • declarations made by the European Council and those included on request from a Member of the European Council.

In addition, if the European Council adopts decisions that do not specify to whom they are addressed, such decisions are to be published in the Official Journal of the EU. If the decisions adopted concern a specific addressee, they must be served on said addressee.

Representation of the European Council before the European Parliament

The President presents a report to Parliament after each meeting of the European Council. Furthermore, the member representing the Member State that is exercising the Presidency of the Council shall present to Parliament the priorities and results achieved during the six-month period.

General Secretariat

The European Council and its President shall be assisted by a General Secretariat, under the responsibility of a Secretary-General. The latter attends European Council meetings. In particular, the Secretary-General participates in drawing up the minutes of meetings and has to notify addressees European Council decisions. The Secretary-General is also responsible for managing the budget granted to the European Council.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 09.02.2010
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