European Council

Introduction

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.

The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by unanimity or by qualified majority. 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:

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.

Read more about the European Semester in EU economic governance.

Further information and contacts

Further information is available on the European Council website

European Council

Rue de la Loi 175
B-1048 Brussels
Belgium

Tel: +32 2 281 61 11

Page edited: 9 March 2020