European Law Monitor

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What Is the European Council?

The European Council represents the member states, and its meetings are attended by one minister from each of the EU's national governments. If you want an easy way to remember it just think of it as the Council of government ministers, because that is effectively what it is.

Which ministers attend which meeting depends on what subjects are on the agenda. If, for example, the Council is to discuss environmental issues, the meeting will be attended by the Environment Minister from each EU country and it will be known as the "Environment Council".

Altogether there are nine different Council configurations:

1. General Affairs and External Relations
2. Economic and Financial Affairs ("ECOFIN")
3. Justice and Home Affairs
4. Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
5. Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research)
6. Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
7. Agriculture and Fisheries
8. Environment
9. Education, Youth and Culture

Despite its variable constitution, the Council still remains one single institution.

The ministers that attend the Council meetings are empowered to commit their government. In other words, the minister's signature is the signature of the whole government. Furthermore, each minister in the Council is answerable to his or her national parliament and to the people that the national parliament represents.