The European Council is not literally an institution; it is a summit of representatives of each member state (usually the head of state, such as the President and/or Prime Minister). These meetings are held 4 times a year at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. The European Council’s role is to issue declarations or resolutions at the end of each meeting.
Before 2002, all meetings were held in the country of the presiding Presidency by rotation, but due to concerns about cost to the environment and budget, this was gradually changed.
This Council differs from the Council of Ministers in that it does not pass legislation or have powers to co-ordinate activities within the European Union. However, it is considered a steering committee that drives the direction of the European Union on topical issues of the day – climate change, financial crisis and admission of new member states for example.
The President of the Council is also the chair of these quarterly meetings. The President has no voting rights but he/she is responsible for organising the meeting.
Location in Brussels
The European Council summits are now permanently based in the Justus Lipsius building, the same building as the Council of Ministers. The building has high security and no guided tours are permitted.
Both institutions will move to the Residence Palace (building next door) around 2013 after it has been renovated. Currently the Residence Palace is occupied by the International Press Centre – a facility for international press to report to the world the outcomes of the European Council meetings and other important decisions taken by Brussels.
Justus Lipsius building
175, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat
Tel: +32 (0)2 281 6622
Metro stop: Schuman
No information on guided tours or information talks is available for the European Council. Reports called a ‘Presidency’s Conclusion’ are ready for public download at its website.