Council of the European Union – Legislative (Upper House)
The European Council gives direction to the EU, and convenes at least four times a year. It comprises the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and one representative per member state; either its head of state or head of government. The European Council has been described by some as the Union’s “supreme political authority”. It is actively involved in the negotiation of the treaty changes and defines the EU’s policy agenda and strategies.
The European Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies. It acts externally as a “collective head of state” and ratifies important documents (for example, international agreements and treaties).
On 19 November 2009, Herman Van Rompuy was chosen as the first permanent President of the European Council. On 1 December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force and he assumed office. Ensuring the external representation of the EU, driving consensus and settling divergences among members are tasks for the President both during the convocations of the European Council and in the time periods between them. The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent from the EU.
- acts together with the Parliament as a legislator
- exerts together with the Parliament the budgetary power
- ensures coordination of the broad economic and social policy and sets out guidelines for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
- conclude international agreements
- based in Brussels