Council Description

What is it?

The Council brings together the representatives of the governments of the European Union member states, at ministerial level (normal Council) or at head of state or government level (European Council) and reflects the national interests and views of each Member State within the Union.

Where is it?

Justus Lipsius building under Czech Presidency

Justus Lipsius building under Czech Presidency

The Council has its seat in Brussels (mainly in the Justus Lipsius Building, just opposite the Berlaymont Building in which all the Commissioners have their offices) but in April, June and October, it holds its meetings in Luxembourg, in the Kirchberg Conference Center.

The Council also rents other buildings in the same area (including the Kortenberg, Froissart, Espace Rolin, Woluwé Heights, Lex and Residence Palace Buildings).

It may also, under exceptional circumstances and for duly justified reasons, meet elsewhere than in Brussels or Luxembourg.

What does it do?

The Council is the main decision-making body of the European Union, notably as regards:

  • The adoption of laws (often in cooperation with Parliament, see co-decision)
  • The co-ordination of economic policies across Europe
  • The definition and implementation of EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP)
  • The conclusion of international agreements
  • The adoption of measures in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
  • The adoption of the Community’s budget (which ranges at around 115 billion Euros), in conjunction with Parliament.

The Council can issue a variety of acts to fulfill these tasks, namely regulations, directives, decisions, common actions or common positions, recommendations, opinions, conclusions, declarations or resolutions. When adopting legislation, the Council generally acts upon a proposal by the European Commission and in co-operation with the European Parliament, hence justifying the “Institutional Triangle” expression.

Each member of the Council is accountable to its own national parliament and obviously represents and defends the national interests of its Member State.

Why would it care?

The Council as such does not care as a body, as it is a patchwork of national interests. The “caring” thus happens at national level, mostly at the level of the national relevant ministries, and in some cases, at the level of the relevant national authorities.

In practice, this means that of you represent a company’s interests, it is extremely difficult not to say impossible to make a Member State care if the said company is not established in one form or another in that country, preferably providing for a reasonable level of employment!

Good to know?

  • The Council and Permanent Representatives (or “Perm reps”) are relevant at two levels: (1) as one of the 3 institutions involved in the decision making process; (2) because the Council perm reps in many cases give guidance to the MEPs of their country or at the very least of the political party of their government in terms of amendments to put forward and how to vote.
  • The Council of the European Union is also referred to as the “Council of Ministers”, the “Council” or “Consilium”.
  • It must not be confused with the Council of Europe, which is the oldest international European level organisation (dating back to 1949), is composed of 47 states and is based in Strasbourg, France.
  • Since 1 December 2009, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the voting rules of the Council have been modified. See http://europa.eu/scadplus/constitution/doublemajority_en.htm
  • “Jumbo” Councils can be convened, where different Council configurations meet at the same time to discuss transversal issues.
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