Referendum Watch: The European Council

By Joe Young - Politics Editor

The European Council is one of the more straightforward bits of the European Union. In less than 400 words, you’ll understand who is in it, what it does, and what power it has.

Every country in the world has a Head of State and a Head of Government. In the UK, the Queen is the Head of State, and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. Some places have one person do both. It’s normally a President (the President of the United States of America is both), but it can be a monarch in an absolute monarchy. The European Council consists of Heads of State/Government from each EU country, plus President of the European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The Representatives are:

  • Austria: Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann
  • Belgium: Prime Minister Charles Michel
  • Bulgaria: Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
  • Croatia: Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković
  • Cyprus: President Nicos Anastasiades
  • Czech Republic: Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka
  • Denmark: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen
  • Estonia: Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
  • Finland: Prime Minister Juha Sipilä
  • France: President François Hollande
  • Germany: Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
  • Hungary: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
  • Ireland: Taioseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny
  • Italy: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
  • Latvia: Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis
  • Lithuania: President Dalia Grybauskaitė
  • Luxembourg: Prime Minister Xavier Bettel
  • Malta: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
  • Netherlands (The): Prime Minister Mark Rutte
  • Poland: Prime Minister Beata Szydło
  • Portugal: Prime Minister António Costa
  • Romania: President Klaus Werner Iohannis
  • Slovakia: Prime Minister Robert Fico
  • Slovenia: Prime Minister Miro Cerar
  • Sweden: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven
  • Spain: Prime Minister Mario Rajoy Brey
  • United Kingdom: Prime Minister David Cameron

Oddly, considering who it consists of, the European Council has no legislative powers. It decides the direction of the EU, and what priorities it should have, but doesn’t pass laws itself; it can pass it to the Council of the European Union to deal with, or ask the European Commission to make a proposal on it. It also deals with complicated or sensitive issues that can’t be dealt with at a lower level. Additionally, it sets the common foreign and security policy of the EU, and takes into account the strategic interests of the EU as well as the defence implications of it. Finally, it nominated and appoints candidates to specific roles within the EU, like the European Central Bank and the European Commission.


To read more in the Referendum Watch series, click here

About Joe Young 316 Articles
Joe Young has been involved with student media for a very long time now, holding posts within The Pulse, and Pulse Radio, as well as the predecessor of The Pulse, Pluto. He is currently Politics Editor of The Pulse, and Head of News of Pulse Radio. In 2016, he won the Media Award for Best Article for his coverage of the Fishergate Shopping Centre bomb scare.

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