In view of the newest decisions on the so-called „EU Top Jobs” it’s good to know what does it mean to become the President of the European Council, what are its responsibilities and powers. The media around Europe tends to omit important facts, focusing only on brief descriptions. If you look for the information on the European Council, read it carefully and everything will become clear to you.
It is important to emphasize that it was the Treaty of Lisbon that granted an official status of EU institution to the European Council on December 1, 2009. From that moment it is one of the seven institutions. But granting an official/formal status of EU institution wasn’t the last change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. The second, maybe more important was the extension of the existing competences of the European Council and the creation of the office of the President of the European Council. Before, the Head of State which country was currently holding the Presidency was at the same time the President of EU Council.
Headquarters, organization and competences
For many years the European Council didn’t have headquarters, its meetings were held in Justus Lipsius building(Brussels), the same in which the Council of the EU meets. Now it will change due to the reconstruction works of the Bloc A of the Residence Palace in Brussels, known also as the Europa Building. It is going to be the headquarters of the European Council in 2015. The main role of this EU institution is to define political direction and priorities for the EU as a whole. Members of the European Council are Heads of State or Government from each Member State, plus the President of the European Council and the President of the Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy can also take part in the meetings. It does not adopt legislation, however it issues conclusions after each meeting, reflecting the main discussed issues, decisions taken and identifying major problems to be dealt with by the Council. The European Council may also invite the European Commission to come forward with proposals for the Union. European Council meetings( also named as “summits”) take place at least twice every six months but when the situation requires it may convene special meetings, addressing urgent issues(i.e. Ukraine case). During the meetings EU leaders decide on the priorities of the Union by consensus. Qualified majority applies in the appointment of the Commission and the High Representative, as well as the election of the President of the European Council. It is important to emphasize that when it decides by vote, only Heads of State or Government may cast a vote.
The President of the European Council
A person who coordinates the work of the European Council is its President, responsible for convening and chairing each meeting, but also drive forward the work of this EU institution. He or she is presenting a report to the European Parliament after each meeting. The first President of the European Council is Herman Van Rompuy, elected in 2009 and then re-elected for a second term. On August 30, EU leaders decided that his successor will be a Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk who will take the office on December 1, 2014. One of his main tasks will to represent the European Union to the outside world together with the High Representative and the President of the European Commission. Being the President means also being a President of all EU summits. It’s about all EU Member States whose currency is the euro. The co called “Euro summits” are being held to discuss the governance of the euro area, but also major economic reforms. The term of office of the President of the European Council is 2,5 years, renewable once – as it happened with Herman Van Rompuy, who has been re-elected in 2012.
Don’t get confused!
People tend to confuse which European body is which – that is not so surprising due to their very similar names. We can distinguish three “Councils”:
The European Council which is presented in this article;
The Council of the EU – means the Council of Ministers; consists of ministers from all EU members; meets regularly to pass European laws;
The Council of Europe – Created in 1949 to protect human rights; currently it has 47 members, including all EU countries. It’s important to remember that it is not an EU institution!
For more information on EU Institutional Law check our previous entry: