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Who belongs to the European Council?

Twenty-seven heads of state and government are members of the European Council – one from each EU member state. Alongside the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, members include French President Emmanuel Macron, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, is also a member of the European Council. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, attends meetings of the European Council. Von der Leyen and Borrell took office on 1 December 2019.

Who chairs the meetings of the European Council?

The meetings are chaired and organised by the President of the European Council. Former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has served in this role since 1 December 2019. He took over from his predecessor Donald Tusk. He will serve a term of two-and-a-half years, which can be extended once.

The Heads of State and Government of the member states that belong to the eurozone appointed Michel President of the Euro Summit for the same period.

What does the European Council do?

 The European Council’s tasks are clearly defined in the Treaty on European Union (Article 15).

The European Council shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and shall define the general political directions and priorities thereof. It shall not exercise legislative functions. 

As a general rule, the European Council does not deal with the day-to-day business of the EU, but rather with issues that will define the future. It lays down the EU’s political goals. However, it sometimes has to decide on controversial matters that could not be resolved at ministerial level.

Where and how often does the European Council meet?

The European Council meets at least twice a year and always in Brussels. As the topics it addresses are becoming increasingly complex, it needs more time for its discussions, so the President regularly convenes informal special meetings in addition to the regular meetings.

What are European Council conclusions?

The outcomes of European Council meetings are summarised as “conclusions” and published. These conclusions form the political guidelines for the work of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

European Council, Council of the European Union, Council of Europe – which is which?

The names are similar and thus confusing. Apart from the European Council, there is the Council of the European Union, which is also referred to as the Council of Ministers. Every six months, the Presidency rotates among the EU member states. The so-called EU Council Presidency currently holds Germany, from1 July to 31 December 2020. Its members are not the Heads of State and Government, but rather ministers from the member states. Depending on the field where decisions need to be made, the Council of the European Union comprises different members. For example, EU foreign ministers form the Foreign Affairs Council, while economic affairs and finance ministers make up the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin).

The Council of Europe is not a body of the European Union, but rather an autonomous group of European countries with 47 member states.