The European Council

The European Council

The European Council chooses the EU’s overall political focus and urgencies. It is not a legislative body; therefore, it does not discuss or approve EU regulations. Instead, the European Council decides the EU’s political agenda, conventionally by adopting ‘conclusions’ during European Council summits, which recognize themes of alarm and initiatives to assume.

In June 2014, the European Council approved the strategic guidelines for the issues related to freedom, security and justice. They comprise features such as border control, migration and asylum policy, and police and judicial cooperation.

At its summit in Brussels on 20 June 2019, the European Council approved the strategic priorities for the EU for the following five years. The document, named “A new strategic agenda 2019-2024” outlines the priorities of the European Council and provides direction for the work program of other EU bodies.

What are the New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 four main topics?

• protecting citizens and freedoms;
• developing a strong and vibrant economic base;
• building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe;
• promoting European interests and values on the global stage.
It also sets out how to realize those purposes.

Who are the members of the European Council?

The members of the European Council are chiefs of state or government of the 27 EU member countries, the European Council President, and the President of the European Commission.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy joins the European Council when it deliberates foreign affairs issues.

The European Council elects its President. The election needs a qualified majority. The President holds the position for a 2.5-year term, renewable once.

The present European Council President is Charles Michel. He took office on 1 December 2019, substituting Donald Tusk

Who selects the top EU leaders?

The European Council contributes to the decision process by selecting high profile EU leaders. In particular, the European Council:

• proposes the President of the European Commission
• chooses the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
• officially appoints the entire body of Commissioners
• appoints the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), including the ECB president

How is the decision-making process of the European Council?

The European Council mostly takes its conclusions by consensus. Nonetheless, in certain instances defined in the EU treaties, it agrees by unanimity or by qualified majority.

Neither the European Council President nor the Commission President takes part in the vote.

What are the European Council conclusions?

European Council conclusions are approved during each European Council summit. They are used to recognize specific matters of concern for the EU and plan specific actions to take or objectives to get. European Council conclusions can also fix a limit for getting an arrangement on a particular item or for the presentation of the legislative proposals. In this way, the European Council can influence and guide the EU’s policy agenda.

Before the European Council assembly, the President of the European Council drafts advices for the conclusions. These are then examined at the General Affairs Council and later accepted at the European Council meeting. Findings are taken by consensus between all EU member states.

What is the European Semester?

Throughout the European Semester, the member countries align their budgetary and economic policies with the goals and rules agreed at the EU level. During the three main stages of the European Semester, the EU member countries propose their budgetary plans and reform policies to the European Commission, which analyses them and issues recommendations for each member state. The Council approves these recommendations, and the member states should realize them in their domestic legislation.

As well as setting the EU’s political priorities through the strategic agenda and through its conclusions, the European Council has a formal role to play in the EU’s annual European semester process. This is the EU’s yearly cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination.

In its annual March meeting, the European Council assesses both the economic situation in the EU and progress towards the Europe 2020 targets. It then gives policy orientations on fiscal, economic and structural reforms. In its June meeting, the European Council endorses the final country-specific recommendations, which set out priorities for each member state for the next 12-18 months.

What is the role of the Council in the choice of key EU leaders?

Proposal for the President of the European Commission

Bearing in mind the results of the European Parliament elections, the European Council must suggest a nominee for the position of President of the European Commission.

The European Parliament has to accept the recommended nominee by a majority of its members. If the European Council’s nominee doesn’t get a majority endorsement in the Parliament poll, the European Council has to offer a new contender. The suggestion must succeed in a month of the unsuccessful vote in the Parliament.

The European Parliament adopts the same process – a majority vote of all MEPs – to accept the new recommended nominee.

Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Furthermore, the Council plays a key role in the appointment of the High Representative, the members of the European Commission and of the European Central Bank (ECB).

The nomination of the high representative

The European Council selects the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The choice of the recommended nominee needs a qualified majority.

The European Council can also choose to finish the high representative’s five-year term of office, again with a qualified majority.

Article 18 of the TEU.

Appointment of the European Commission

The European Council formally appoints the whole European Commission. The Parliament ballots on the group of Commissioners – the Commission President, the high representative, and the other Officials – using the consent method (a majority of votes cast).

Once the Parliament has given its consensus, the European Council formally appoints the European Commission. The European Council’s resolution needs a qualified majority.

Article 17 of the TEU.

European Central Bank appointments

The European Council appoints all six members of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), which comprises both the ECB President and Vice-President, plus four other members.

The European Council takes its decision based on a Council proposal. It also confers with the European Parliament and the ECB’s Governing Council (composed of the six members of the Executive Board, plus the heads of the central banks of the 19-euro area countries). The European Council then decides through a qualified majority ballot.

Article 283 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.
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