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 2014, five 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:
- Jobs, growth and competitiveness - the European Council has stated that growth needs to be promoted, investment increased, more and better jobs created and reforms promoted to increase competitiveness. Specific measures include, but are not restricted to: the completion of the digital single market, improving SME access to finance and investment or improving infrastructure investment.
- Empowering and protecting citizens - the European Council has identified priority actions designed to provide opportunities for EU citizens and to counteract poverty and social exclusion.
- Energy and Climate Policy - the European Council has stressed that dependency on oil and gas imports must be reduced and that affordable, safe and sustainable energy in the EU must be ensured.
- Freedom, security and justice - the EC has stressed the importance of good EU cooperation on security issues such as terrorism and the management of migration flows.
- The Union as a strong global player - to this end, the European Council has called on the EU to make a decisive contribution to the world political scene and has highlighted the individual priorities, such as: for example, working with global partners on a variety of topics including trade, cyber security, human rights and crisis management.
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