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The European Council brings together EU leaders to set the EU’s political agenda and defines the EU’s overall political direction and priorities. It represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries. The members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission. 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.

What does the European Council do?

  • Decides on the EU’s overall direction and political priorities – but does not pass laws.
  • Deals with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels of intergovernmental cooperation
  • Sets the EU’s common foreign & security policy, taking into account EU strategic interests and defense implications
  • Nominates and appoints candidates to certain high profile EU level roles, such as the ECB and the Commission

On each issue, the European Council can:

  • ask the European Commission to make a proposal to address it
  • pass it on to the Council of the EU to deal with.