The European Council, as stated in its constitution, is the highest level of political cooperation between the countries of the European Union (EU). In short, it is a body that is responsible for bringing together the leaders of the EU member countries, and this in order to establish their political agenda.
The European Council, within the EU, is one of the seven official institutions that the European Union has. At the level of political cooperation, the European Council holds the highest rank.
Its creation dates from 1974. However, it is not until 1992 when the European Council achieves its official status. In the same way, in 2009 it was recognized as an official institution of the European Union.
Its headquarters are established where the European institutions are, in Brussels, Belgium.
It is made up of those Heads of State and leaders of Governments of those countries that are part of the Council. Likewise, it is also made up of the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
Thus, among other functions, the European Council is in charge of setting the political agenda, by holding meetings that are usually held quarterly. In these, which are chaired by a president, cooperation mechanisms are established, while the political agenda is set to address challenges faced by member countries and that, together, they can better overcome.
Characteristics of the European Council
To understand the concept well, let’s see its main characteristics as a summary:
- It is one of the seven official institutions of the European Union.
- It represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries.
- It is made up of the government leaders of the EU member countries, as well as the president of the European Commission and the Council itself.
- Among its functions, it stands out that of defining the orientation and political priorities of the European Union.
- The European Council was created, as an informal forum, in 1974, although in 2009 it was recognized as an official EU institution.
- It is organized through meetings, which are usually held every quarter.
- Its headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
What does the European Council do?
Once we know its characteristics, let us see what the work of the European Council is in its day to day.
Thus, as we have already mentioned, the main task of the European Council is to define the general political orientation and priorities of the European Union.
To do this, it holds meetings that, in general, are held throughout each quarter. Therefore, we speak of 4 ordinary meetings a year. However, extraordinary meetings may be held.
In these meetings, the Council is in charge, through consensus, of reaching agreements regarding the role we highlighted (definition of EU priorities).
However, as we will now see in more detail, the European Council has other functions that should be noted.
Functions of the European Council
Among the functions that the European Council claims to have, the following can be highlighted:
- Although it is not in charge of legislating, it does decide the general political priorities of the European Union, while establishing their orientation.
- In the same way, it is in charge of resolving issues that, due to various factors, cannot be resolved at lower levels than intergovernmental cooperation.
- It is responsible for making decisions on foreign policy. This, taking into account the strategic interests of the EU and the implications that these decisions have on defense matters.
- It designates the candidates who will subsequently occupy relevant positions within the EU itself. Among them, relevant positions in the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission.
Because it cannot legislate, the European Council is in charge of addressing the different competences it has in the following way:
- On the one hand, you can ask the European Commission to draw up a proposal to resolve the matter.
- In the same way, it can order the Council of the European Union to submit an idea for study and then deal with it.
Presidency of the European Council
To get an idea, the President of the European Council is one of the highest institutional positions in the European Union.
Their mandate lasts for two and a half years, and can be renewed only once. This regulation replaces a previous system, which established a presidency that rotated among the leaders of the member countries.
Since these regulations came into force, the president must be elected by the leaders of the member countries. In the same way that his dismissal, in addition to causes such as death or resignation, can also be done under the consensus reached among these leaders who elect him.
Among its functions, there is a main one, which is to preside over and promote the work carried out by the European Council, as well as to ensure that these, in cooperation with the President of the European Commission, are developed.
Members of the European Council
Thus, the members that make up the European Council are the following:
- President : Elected by the Council for a maximum term of 2 and a half years, and the position may be renewed only once.
- General Secretariat of the Council : It is the administrative infrastructure for assistance to the Council, and has more than 3,000 officials.
- Presidency : In addition to the president, the Council has a presidency, which is exercised on a rotating basis among the member countries, and which assists the president of the Council.
- General Affairs Council : It is in charge of tasks related to the legal aspect, and of coordinating the tasks that this institution carries out.
- Member countries : Refers to the heads of state or government of the member states of the European Union. In this sense, it is made up of 27 leaders.