Copyright

The European Council: Organization and Function

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Organization and Responsibilities of the European Commission (EC)

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 European Council
  • 0:37 History
  • 1:58 The Body
  • 2:33 Scope
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the European Council, an important and relatively recent institution of the European Union composed of the member states' leaders.

European Council

When you were a kid, did your parents ever call a 'family meeting?' Usually meant to discuss or explain some big decision or life-altering change to the family, family meetings were important so that everyone could have their input into whatever issue was at hand and everyone could arrive at a single direction for the family together. In some ways, the European Council performs a very similar function for the European Union (EU). The European Council meets several times a year, often voicing its opinion on the major issues facing EU member states and setting the course for future EU institutions and decisions.

History

The European Council has only recently been normalized as an institution. In the early days of the European Union (when it was still called the European Economic Community), the European Council did not really exist. The first meetings of an organization reminiscent of today's European Council occurred in the mid-1970s. They were called in order to promote discussion between EU leaders concerning the direction and priorities of the EU.

After the 1970s, the European Council met informally and according to need, only meeting when the EU was confronted with a major geopolitical situation or a major decision concerning the future of EU institutions. For example, two of the most important treaties in the history of the EU, the Single European Act and the Treaty of Maastricht, were both created and instituted only after a meeting of the European Council.

In the 21st century, meetings of the European Council became more and more frequent as Europe integrated even further with the introduction of the Euro and the EU faced difficult situations like the 2008 financial collapse. In 2009, as part of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council became an official institution of the European Union. Its meetings were henceforth regularized to at least two meetings every six months, though additional meetings could be called by the president of the European Council according to need.

The Body

The European Council itself is composed of the heads of state or government of the 28 various EU member states. The president of the European Commission also attends each meeting, as does the president of the European Council, who is the body's chair. The chair of the European Council as of June 2014 is the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy, who will hold the post until November 2014. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also attends, although he or she and the Council and Commission presidents have no voting power in the European Council.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support