There are 3 bodies in the EU that have very similar names but very different roles.
1. The Council of the European Union – The Council of Ministers.
This is one important decision making body of the EU. The member countries of the EU are represented by their ministers who meet at the Council’s Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, and develop regulations, directives, decisions, conclusions, resolutions, declarations, recommendations or opinions.
The Council of the EU:
Passes laws (there is a co-decision procedure with the Parliament).
Coordinates economic policies.
Adopts the EU budget.
Concludes international agreements.
Defines the common foreign and security policy
Adopts measures in judicial cooperation.
2. The European Council (or Summit) is the highest decision making body of the EU. The President of the Commission and the heads of member states (presidents and prime ministers) meet and develop policies, settle disputes and discuss international problems for a common foreign and security policy (CFSP).
The legal basis of the Council
The first summit meetings of the heads of the member states in 1961 were successful, and later in 1977 and 1983, two declarations were signed, the London Declaration on the Council and the Stuttgart Solemn Declaration on the EU.
Although these declarations were legally non binding, they specified the role of the Council.
In 1987 for the first time the Council was mentioned into the modification of the original founding Treaties of the EU. Later the Treaty of Maastricht formally defined the role and the tasks of the Council.
Although there is no higher body in the EU, the Council’s decisions are not legally binding. These decisions have to follow the normal procedure of the Union: A proposal from the Commission, and a positive vote from the Parliament and the Council.
3. The Council of Europe is not an institution of the EU. It is an organisation that aims to protect human rights, to promote democratic principles and cultural diversity and to combat racial prejudice, discrimination against minorities, organised crime and corruption, violence against children.
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