The European Council consists of the heads of government of each EU member state, the European Council President (currently Charles Michel) and the President of the European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen).
It is the EU institution that sets out the EU’s political direction and priorities. It does not make laws, and is a separate institution to the Council of the European Union.
What does the European Council do?
The European Council has a number of important functions:
- It decides on the political and policy direction of the EU
- It sets the EU’s foreign and security policies
- It nominates and appoints important EU roles
- It has a formal role in the EU’s European semester process
The European Council does not have the power to make laws, but it can ask the European Commission to propose laws.
The Council meets 4 times per year at least. It usually adopts 'conclusions' at its formal meetings. Conclusions set out the EU's position on key policy matters.
The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. This means that no member opposes the decision. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by taking a vote. If a vote is taken, neither the European Council President nor the Commission President takes part.
Role in nominations and appointments
The European Council is responsible for:
- Proposing the President of the European Commission (must be approved by the European Parliament)
- Appointing the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
- Appointing EU commissioners (after they have been consented on by the European Parliament)
- Appointing the President and the Executive Board of the European Central Bank
Role in the European Semester
The European Semester runs from January to June each year. It is used to coordinate the budgets and economic plans of EU member states. The European Council has a formal role in the European Semester.
At its annual March meeting, the European Council assesses both the economic situation in the EU and progress towards targets. It then gives sets polices on fiscal, economic and structural reforms.
At its June meeting, the European Council endorses the final country-specific recommendations, which set out priorities for each member state for the next 12–18 months.
Further information and contacts
Further information is available on the European Council website.