- The European Council is where the real power of the EU lies.
- It comprises the heads of government of each member state (for example the UK Prime Minister) plus the President of the Council and the President of the European Commission.
- The President of the Council and the President of the Commission do not have voting rights within the Council.
- It decides and formulates overall EU policy agenda and passes specific suggestions for new EU laws to the European Commission, who investigate and write up the proposal in more detail.
- The Council also resolves issues that may arise at lower levels of the EU and leads in formulating the EU’s collective foreign policy.
- As the Council is formed of national leaders it represents the executive power of the member states of the EU and is the EU’s ultimate political authority, should this power be needed.
"The European Council is where the power of the EU lies. It determines overall EU policy and is composed of the elected heads of government of the EU plus the President of the European Commission and the President of the Council. The Presidents do not have voting rights in the Council."
The European Council is the head of the EU political pyramid although its direct powers are somewhat limited. It has a guiding, strategic role in most areas, although in “high profile” policy areas such as foreign relations it has more influence. It is composed of the elected heads of government of each EU member state (for example, the serving UK Prime Minister, French President and German Chancellor) plus the President of the Council and the President of the Commission. The Presidents of the Council and Commission do not vote in Council debates. The President of the Council is elected by the members of the Council (i.e. the heads of EU member state governments) for a period of two and a half years, with the possibility of re-election for one further term of the same length. The current President is Donald Tusk who was initially elected on 1st December 2014 until 31st May 2017 and was subsequently re-elected for a further term on 9th March 2017. His role is to prepare for and organise meetings of the Council, to find consensus amongst its members and to report back to the European Parliament after each meeting of the Council (which take place at least twice every six months).