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Consilium.Europa.EU: The Council of the European Union
The Council is the main decision-making body of the European Union

The ministers of the Member States meet within the Council of the European Union. Depending on the issue on the agenda, each country will be represented by the minister responsible for that subject (foreign affairs, finance, social affairs, transport, agriculture, etc.).

The presidency of the Council is held for six months by each Member State on a rotational basis.

Council Configurations
Each Member State participates in preparing the work of the Council and in its decision-making

The Council is made up of the ministers of the Member States. It meets in nine different configurations depending on the subjects under discussion. For example, the "General Affairs and External Relations" configuration is made up of foreign affairs ministers, the "Justice and Home Affairs" configuration of justice and home affairs ministers, etc.

All the work of the Council is prepared or co-ordinated by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), made up of the permanent representatives of the Member States working in Brussels and their assistants. The work of this Committee is itself prepared by some 250 committees and working groups consisting of delegates from the Member States.

...

The Council
General Affairs and External Relations
Economic and Financial Affairs
Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
Competitiveness
Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
Agriculture and Fisheries
Environment
Education, Youth and Culture

The list includes "the council" as well as the "nine configurations" for a total of 10. The COREPER is the heart of the Council and it's not one of the 10 listed.

The Council

... However, there remains a single Council in that, regardless of the Council configuration that adopts a decision, that decision is always a Council decision and no mention is made of the configuration. The Council's seat is in Brussels, where it meets several times a month (meetings are held in Luxembourg in April, June and October).
Council decisions are prepared by a structure of some 250 working parties and committees comprising delegates from the Member States. They resolve technical issues and forward the dossier to the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper), made up of the Member States' ambassadors to the European Union, which ensures consistency in the work and resolves technical-political questions before submitting the dossier to the Council.

The Council takes decisions by a vote of Ministers from the Member States.

European Council
The European Council brings together the heads of state or government of the European Union and the president of the Commission. It defines the general political guidelines of the European Union

The decisions taken at the European Council meetings represent a major impetus in defining the general political guidelines of the European Union.

The meetings of the European Council usually take place in Brussels, in the Justus Lipsius building.

According to Wikipedia:
The European Council isn't an official institution of the EU, although it is mentioned in the treaties as a body which "shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development". Essentially it defines the EU's policy agenda and has thus been considered to be the motor of European integration. It does this without any formal powers, only the influence it has being composed of national leaders. Beyond the need to provide "impetus", the Council has developed further roles; to "settle issues outstanding from discussions at a lower level", to lead in foreign policy - acting externally as a "collective Head of State", "formal ratification of important documents" and "involvement in the negotiation of the treaty changes".

Because it's composed of national leaders, the body brings together the executive power of the member states, having a great deal of influence outside the European Community: for example over foreign policy and police & justice. It also exercises the more executive powers of the Council of the European Union (the European Council could be described as a configuration of that body) such as the appointment of the President of the European Commission. Hence with powers over the supranational executive of the EU, in addition to its other powers, the European Council has been described by some as the Union's "supreme political authority".

However, the body has been criticised by some for a lack of leadership, in part stemming from the weak structure of the body, meeting only 4 times a year for 2 days with no staff and no legislative decisions made.

(my emphasis)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 06:39:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also the European Commission's Glossary:
The Council of the European Union ("Council of Ministers" or "Council") is the Union's main decision-making body. Its meetings are attended by Member State ministers, and it is thus the institution which represents the Member States. The Council's headquarters are in Brussels, but some of its meetings are held in Luxembourg. Sessions of the Council are convened by the Presidency, which sets the agenda.

The Council meets in different configurations (nine in all), bringing together the competent Member State ministers: General Affairs and External Relations; Economic and Financial Affairs; Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs; Competitiveness; Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA); Transport, Telecommunications and Energy; Agriculture and Fisheries; Environment; Education, Youth and Culture.

Each country of the European Union presides over the Council for six months, by rotation. Since January 2007 a new system for holding the Council Presidency has been in force. For each 18-month period, the three Presidencies which will be in office during that time prepare a draft common programme.

The Permanent Representatives Committee or "Coreper" (Article 207 of the Treaty establishing the European Community) is responsible for preparing the work of the Council of the European Union. It consists of the Member States' ambassadors to the European Union ("Permanent Representatives") and is chaired by the Member State which holds the Council Presidency.

Coreper occupies a pivotal position in the Community decision-making system, in which it is both a forum for dialogue (among the Permanent Representatives and between them and their respective national capitals) and a means of political control (guidance and supervision of the work of the expert groups).

It thus carries out preliminary scrutiny of the dossiers on the Council agenda (proposals and drafts for acts tabled by the Commission). It seeks to reach agreement at its own level on each dossier, failing which it may suggest guidelines, options or suggested solutions to the Council.

The European Council is the term used to describe the regular meetings of the Heads of State or Government of the European Union Member States. Its role is to provide the European Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define the general political guidelines (Article 4 of the Treaty on European Union). It does not enact legislation and is not an institution.

It meets at least twice per year (in practice, twice per presidency) and the President of the European Commission attends as a full member. An extraordinary meeting can be held whenever necessary. It is chaired by the Member State holding the six-month presidency of the Union. Decisions are taken by consensus following negotiation between the Member States, which begins before the summit. The outcome of the European Council deliberations is recorded in the conclusions published at the end of the meeting.

The European Council was set up by the communiqué issued at the close of the December 1974 Paris Summit and first met in 1975. Before that time, from 1961 to 1974, the practice had been to hold European summit conferences. The Single European Act (1986) gave a legal basis to its existence and the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht, 1992) specified its functions.

(my emphasis)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 06:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For good measure, let's quote the single article of the Treaty on European Union which describes the European Council.
Article 4

The European Council shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and shall
define the general political guidelines thereof.

The European Council shall bring together the Heads of State or Government of the Member States and
the President of the Commission. They shall be assisted by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the
Member States and by a Member of the Commission. The European Council shall meet at least twice a
year, under the chairmanship of the Head of State or Government of the Member State which holds the
Presidency of the Council.

The European Council shall submit to the European Parliament a report after each of its meetings and a
yearly written report on the progress achieved by the Union.




When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 06:54:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that the "composition of heads of state or government" does exist in the Treaties. For instance:
Treaty on European Union

Article 7

2. The Council, meeting in the composition of the Heads of State or Government and acting by
unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining
the assent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by
a Member State of principles mentioned in Article 6(1), after inviting the government of the Member
State in question to submit its observations.




When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 06:57:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is also mentioned in the Treaty on the European Community
Article 121

2. On the basis of these reports, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a recommendation
from the Commission, shall assess:
-- for each Member State, whether it fulfils the necessary conditions for the adoption of a single
currency;
-- whether a majority of the Member States fulfils the necessary conditions for the adoption of a
single currency,
and recommend its findings to the Council, meeting in the composition of the Heads of State or
Government. The European Parliament shall be consulted and forward its opinion to the Council, meeting
in the composition of the Heads of State or Government.

Also when appointing the board of the ECB (Article 112), the European Monetary Institute (Article 117), transitional steps of the Economic and Monetary Union (Articles 121-122) and the nomination of the President of the Commission (Article 214).


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 07:03:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the conclusion is? ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 03:03:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "European Council" is only an EU Institution when it is a "configuration" of the "Council of the European Union". Otherwise it's just for the Heads to feel important and for the press to have someone to photograph. There is only one Council.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 03:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good!

Tomorrow I will start with an analysis of the EU components in preparation for a more detailed discussion. I'll have to work with the official EU view first - but, as you have revealed, we have to go behind the photo-ops to discover the real structure as it affects citizens.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 03:38:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But don't get "the official EU view" from the EU delegation to Japan. Get it from the Commission's Europa.eu site, and their glossary.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 03:46:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this true according to the Nizza and Lisbon Treaties, too? I have to check, but I seem to recall that the difference did count when it came to the definition of "Presidency of the Council" vs. "President of the European Council".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 04:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All I have quoted is from the consolidated treaties pre-Lisbon.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 04:54:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm browsing it right now. There's this:

The Treaty on European Union shall be amended in accordance with the provisions of this Article.

...

9. Article 40 shall be replaced by the following Articles 40, 40a and 40b:

...

Article 40a

1.
Member States which intend to establish enhanced cooperation between themselves under Article 40 shall address a request to the Commission, which may submit a proposal to the Council to that effect. In the event of the Commission not submitting a proposal, it shall inform the Member States concerned of the reasons for not doing so. Those Member States may then submit an initiative to the Council designed to obtain authorisation for the enhanced cooperation concerned.

2.
The authorisation referred to in paragraph 1 shall be granted, in compliance with Articles 43 to 45, by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, on a proposal from the Commission or on the initiative of at least eight Member States, and after consulting the European Parliament. The votes of the members of the Council shall be weighted in accordance with Article 205(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

A member of the Council may request that the matter be referred to the European Council. After that matter has been raised before the European Council, the Council may act in accordance with the first subparagraph of this paragraph.

Here European Council and Council seem to bee treated as separate entities.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 05:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right.

Which is rather bizarre since the Government is under the authority of the Head of Government.

Does the Lisbon Treaty retain the "configuration of Heads of State or Government"?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 06:13:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nominally, ministers are NOT under the authority of a PM, and things get even more interesting if there is a cohabitation between a President and a government in a country. At any rate, I take this provision to mean that whoever wants to make such a request, it has to be the Council of the bosses that gives the approval.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 10:09:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The German Chancellor might take any question and decide it in lieu of the minister (Richtlinienkompetenz, Art. 65 Satz 1 GG). Whether he effectively can is, of course, another question.  

Generally speaking, collegiality seems to be on the retreat, except in Switzerland. E.g., the weight of the numerous British ministers seems to be rather light, and decreasing. And, last but not least, the US gouvernment is really monocratic, and has, for all intents and purposes, no ministers at all.

Nobody cares for the [quality of the] administration any more.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 06:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want an official consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, it's here.

For instance

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.
I like paragraph 4 - wishful thinking on the "forming political awareness", since the Media call the shots.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 06:21:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As for the consolidated versions after the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council and the Council are clearly separated. Definition is in  the Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, Title II, Article 10:

2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

Consolidated version of the Treaty on The Functioning of The European Union, Part Six (Institutional Provisions), Title I, Chapter 1 has separate Sections 2 and 3 for the European Council and the Council.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 06:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, so the EU has been getting ahead of itself in updating its information pages (there is a notice in the Glossary about updating to reflect the Lisbon Treaty, too).

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 06:11:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The distinction between the COREPER and the Council is customary and protocolary in the first place, ministers being more dignified. Cf. the diplomatic practice at international conferences, to end with a minister's conference.

Thus, if the COREPER accepts a measure it gets on the »A« list and is summarily agreed to by the Council.

One may compare the German Federal Council (Bundesrat, Art. 50—53 GG): only ministers (i.e. members of the regional gouvernment (Landesregierung) may vote; votes are weighted and cannot be split, and the regional chief ministers (Ministerpräsidenten) meet from time to time outside of the council.

Could they vote on bills on this occasion? No, because the Federal Council needs to be convened in due form.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 07:16:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to ET!

Bah, humbug :-)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 17th, 2008 at 01:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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