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The Council of the European Union

15.05.2015 - Article

The Council of the European Union (for short: Council) represents the member states within the EU’s political system. It is where ministers of the member states meet to coordinate political measures and (together with the European Parliament) adopt laws.

Entrance to the Justus-Lipsius building, where the council meetings take place
Entrance to the Justus-Lipsius building, where the council meetings take place© photothek.net

The Council should not be confused with the European Council, which is made up of the Heads of State and Government of the 28 EU member states as well as the President of the European Council (Donald Tusk) and the President of the Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker) and defines the EU’s political priorities.

In legal terms, the Council is a single entity which, however, meets in different configurations. At present, there are ten configurations, of which only the first two listed below have been set forth in primary law by the EU Treaty:

  • General Affairs
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Economic and Financial Affairs (including budget)
  • Justice and Home Affairs (including civil defence)
  • Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
  • Competitiveness (single market, industry and research, tourism)
  • Transport, Telecommunications, Energy
  • Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Environment
  • Education, Youth and Culture (including audiovisual matters)

Council meetings are chaired by the minister of the member state holding the 6‑month Council Presidency. One exception to this is the Foreign Affairs Council, which is always chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Federica Mogherini has held this post since 2014.

The Council takes its decisions by a qualified majority, for which usually two conditions must be met (double majority): 1) approval of 55% of all member states, which 2) represent at least 65% of the EU’s overall population.

The Council’s General Secretariat supports the Council’s work in both administrative and organisational terms. With regard to content, the Council’s work is prepared by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) as well as by a whole host of Council committees and working parties.

Further information is available on the Council’s own website:

www.consilium.europe

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