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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
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