The European Council is the body of heads of state and government and must be strictly distinguished from the Council of the European Union. It is not a legislative body, but rather sets out the general political objectives and priorities of the EU. In 2019, four priorities were agreed for the work of the EU over the next five years. These priorities are set out in the document "Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change". The following five areas are addressed:
- Protecting citizens and freedoms - the European Council has stated that Europe must be a place where people feel free and safe. The EU must defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens and protect them against exiting and emerging threats.
- Developing the economic base - the European Council has identified priority actions designed to provide for competitiveness, prosperity, jobs and role on the global stage.
- Building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe - the European Council has stressed that Europe needs to step up its action to manage climate change, which is an existential threat. It also needs to embrace technological evolution and globalisation while making sure that no-one is left behind.
- Promoting Europe's interests and values in the world - the European Council has stressed that in a world of increasing uncertainty, complexity and change, the EU needs to pursue a strategic course of action and increase its capacity to act autonomously to safeguard its interests, uphold its values and way of life and help shape the global future.
The European Council consists of the Heads of State and Government as well as the President of the EC (in an advisory capacity) and is a major source of momentum through the instrument of inference (see Conclusions of the EC, in particular the Conclusion from 25.10. 2013). The Lisbon Treaty (in German) has introduced the role of President-in-Office, who is elected by the Heads of State and Government for two and a half years. The task of the president is to
- to chair and give impetus to the work,
- together with the President of the European Commission to ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council,
- promote cohesion and consensus in the European Council and
- to report to the European Parliament on the meetings of the European Council.
Website of the European Council