The Council of the European Union: Voice of the Member States


The Council of the European Union: — formerly known as the Council of Ministers — shares with Parliament the responsibility for passing laws and taking policy decisions. It also bears the main responsibility for what the EU does in the field of the common foreign and security policy and for EU action on some justice and freedom issues.

The Council consists of ministers from the national governments of all the EU countries. Meetings are attended by whichever ministers are responsible for the items to be discussed: foreign ministers, ministers of the economy and finance, ministers for agriculture and so on, as appropriate.

Each country has a number of votes in the Council broadly reflecting the size of their population, but weighted in favour of smaller countries. Most decisions are taken by majority vote, although sensitive issues in areas like taxation, asylum and immigration, or foreign and security policy, require unanimity.

Up to four times a year the presidents and/or prime ministers of the Member States meet as the European Council. These ‘summit’ meetings set overall EU policy.

European Union
The Council of the European Union
The European Investment Bank
Council of Europe
Origins and membership
Political aims
How it works
Ordinary budget
Some practical achievements
The pan-European dimension