European Council

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European Council,

institution of the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
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 (EU) responsible for defining the EU's general political direction and priorities. It is composed of an elected president (who serves a two-and-a-half-year term), the heads of government of the EU nations, and the president of the European CommissionEuropean Commission
(EC), institution of the European Union (EU) invested with executive powers; it also is the main EU institution that initiates legislation. Located in Brussels, Belgium, it was founded in 1967 when the three treaty organizations comprising what was then the
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; the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part in its work, and the government heads and Commission president may be assisted by government ministers and a Commission member, respectively, in specialized discussions. It meets at least twice every six months.

Meetings of the European Council have from its beginnings often emphasized political as well as economic cooperation among EU nations; for example, the impetus for the move to have the members of the European ParliamentEuropean Parliament,
an institution of the governing body of the European Union (EU). It convenes on a monthly basis in Strasbourg, France; most meetings of the separate parliamentary committees are held in Brussels, Belgium, and its Secretariat is located in Luxembourg.
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 elected directly by universal suffrage came out of an agreement reached at the first meeting of the European Council in 1974. The council was given legal definition by the Single European Act (1987) and became an official instituion of the EU with the ratification (2009) of the Lisbon Treaty.

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