European Council

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Related to Euopean Council: European Commission, Council of Europe, Council of the European Union

European Council

a body both within and outside the EUROPEAN UNION. The European Council brings together the heads of state or of government of the Member States and the President of the Commission of the European Union. They are assisted by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and by a member of the Commission. It meets at least twice a year.

Quite the most curious body in the European Union, its origins lie in the time when the council of the European Union had given up voting by qualified majority and tried to seek unanimity. Decision-making became more difficult, and momentum was sought from the extra-Community Intergovernmental Conference of Heads of State or Government because the parties at this gathering were eligible to be members of the Council proper. As a result of a resolution of that body, in 1974 the parties agreed to meet three times a year and whenever necessary to constitute themselves as the Council. When they meet, the President and senior Vice-president of the Commission attend. In practice, it does keep to overall policy and tries to consider issues of development and policy and the clearing of log jams. Its success has been rewarded by recognition in the SINGLE EUROPEAN ACT. There are proposals to give it formal institutional status.