A European Union institution, the European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union.
It meets at least four times a year, bringing together Europe's top political leaders, i.e. the heads of state or government of the member states, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
Role and responsibilities
The European Council's role is twofold - setting the EU's general political direction and priorities, and dealing with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at a lower level of decision-making.
Its president is elected for a term of two and a half years, renewable once.
European Council and the euro area
Since euro area issues are of key political and economic importance to all 27 EU countries, these matters are regularly discussed at leaders' level in the European Council.
While the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance lays down the Euro Summit as a forum for the euro area leaders to meet at least twice a year, in current practice dedicated euro area meetings are often held in the full European Council format.
The current President of the European Council is also President of the Euro Summit.