The origins of the Council of the European Union date back to 1952 when the Paris Treaty established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Six countries met in the Council at that time: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands.
It is the European institution that brings together ministers from all EU member states in order to adopt laws and coordinate policies.
How it works:
•It approves EU legislation
•It coordinates the general economic policies of the member states
•it signs agreements between the EU and third countries
•it approves the EU annual budget
•It develops the EU's common foreign and security policy
•It coordinates cooperation between national courts and police forces of the member states
The Council meets in 10 different configurations in which each country is represented by the minister in charge for the matter that will be discussed at the Council meeting.
The Foreign Affairs Council has a permanent President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. All other Council’s meetings are chaired by the relevant minister of the country holding the six-month presidency of the EU Council.
Depending on the topic on the agenda, the EU Council takes its decisions by
•simple majority (15 member states vote in favour)
• qualified majority (260 votes from at least 15 member states are in favour)
• unanimous vote. The Council normally takes its decisions by qualified majority
As of 1 November 2014, a new voting system based on a double qualified majority will be introduced. A proposal will be adopted if
• 55% of member states vote in favour
•the countries in favour represent at least 65% of the EU population