The European Council sets the priorities and EU's overall political direction but has not legislative power. It also determines the EU’s foreign and security policy and makes appointments to other EU institutions.
The European Council meets at least four times a year.
It is composed of the Heads of State or Government of the 28 Member States, the President of the Commission and the President of the European Parliament. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy attends the Council’s meeting when foreign affairs are discussed and the President of the European Central Bank is also invited, depending on the agenda.
The European Council is convened and chaired by its President, who is elected by the members of the European Council for a once-renewable two-and-a-half-year term. The president also ensures the continuity of work and represents the EU at the highest level in the international fora. He or she may not hold a national office.
Herman Van Rompuy from Belgium was the first President of the European Council in the history of the EU and took office with the entry in force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009.
The current President is the Donald Tusk, Poland, in office since 1 December 2014.