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Institutions of the European Union

Institutions of the European Union (4th edn)

Dermot Hodson and John Peterson
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date: 29 September 2023

p. 553. The European Council: A formidable locus of powerlocked

p. 553. The European Council: A formidable locus of powerlocked

  • Philippe de Schoutheete


This chapter focuses on the European Council as a locus of power. Created in 1974, the European Council plays a key role in the development of European integration. It gives political guidance and impetus to the European Union and, by virtue of the Lisbon Treaty, has the formal status of an EU institution under the leadership of a full-time President. This chapter discusses the European Council’s origins, composition, meetings and euro summits, and legal nature and characteristics. It also provides an overview of the debates and decision-making that take place at the Council, along with its functions, which can be grouped under: strategic guidelines, decision-making, economic governance, foreign policy, Justice and Home Affairs, and Treaty amendment. The chapter considers whether the European Council is an intergovernmental or hybrid institution before concluding with an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.

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