The European Council was created in 1974 with the intention of establishing an informal forum for discussion between Heads of State or Government. It acquired a formal status in the Treaty of Maastricht (1992), which defined its function as providing the impetus and general political guidelines for the Union's development. On 1 December 2009, with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, it became one of the seven institutions of the Union (art. 15 TEU).
The European Council defines the general political direction and the priorities of the European Union. The European Council consists of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy takes part in its work.
When the agenda requires it, each members of the European Council may decide each to be assisted by a minister and, in the case of the President of the Commission, by a member of the Commission. The European Council meets twice every six months, in Brussels, convened by its President. When the situation requires it, the President will convene a special meeting of the European Council.
The European Council elects its President by qualified majority. The President's term of office is two and a half years, renewable once. Except where the Treaties provide otherwise, the decisions of the European Council are taken by consensus. In some cases, it adopts decisions by unanimity or by qualified majority (art.236 TEU), depending on what the Treaty provides for.

Editor: Cristiana MENE’

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