In the Council, government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings.
Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU.
1. Negotiates and adopts EU laws
The Council is an essential EU decision-maker.
It negotiates and adopts legislative acts in most cases together with the European Parliament through the ordinary legislative procedure, also known as 'codecision'. Codecision is used for policy areas where the EU has exclusive or shared competence with the member states. In these cases, the Council legislates on the basis of proposals submitted by the European Commission.
2. Coordinates member states' policies
The Council is responsible for coordinating member states' policies in specific fields, such as:
economic and fiscal policies: The Council coordinates member states' economic and fiscal policies to strengthen economic governance in the EU, monitors their budgetary policies and strengthens the EU's fiscal framework, and also deals with the legal and practical aspects of the euro, financial markets and capital movements
education, culture, youth and sport: The Council adopts EU policy frameworks and work plans in these areas which set out the priorities for cooperation between member states and the Commission
employment policy: The Council draws up annual guidelines and recommendations for member states, based on European Council conclusions on the EU employment situation
3. Develops the EU's common foreign and security policy
The Council defines and implements EU foreign and security policy on the basis of guidelines set by the European Council. This also includes the EU's development and humanitarian aid, defence and trade.Together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council ensures the unity, consistency and effectiveness of the EU's external action.
4. Concludes international agreements
The Council provides the mandate to the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the EU agreements between the EU and non-EU countries and international organisations. At the end of negotiations, the Council decides on the signature and conclusion of the agreement, based on a proposal from the Commission. The Council also adopts the final decision to conclude the agreement, once the Parliament has given its consent (required in areas subject to co-decision) and it has been ratified by all EU member states.
These agreements may cover broad areas, such as trade, cooperation and development, or they may deal with specific subjects such as textiles, fisheries, customs, transport, science and technology, etc.
5. Adopts the EU budget
The Council adopts the EU budget together with the Parliament.
The budget period covers a calendar year. It is usually adopted in December and starts running on 1 January the following year.
Not to be confused with:
- European Council - quarterly summits, where EU leaders meet to set the broad direction of EU policy making
- Council of Europe - not an EU body at all.
What does the Council do?
- Negotiates and adopts EU laws, together with the European Parliament, based on proposals from the European Commission
- Coordinates EU countries' policies
- Develops the EU's foreign & security policy, based on European Council guidelines
- Concludes agreements between the EU and other countries or international organisations
- Adopts the annual EU budget - jointly with the European Parliament.
Where is Council of the European Union