Until December 31 2009, the European Council Presidency was attributed to the executive of each State member of the Union for six months to turn. It was a rotating presidency synchronized with the Council of Ministers. The Presidency changes were effected annually for both institutions at the same time on January 1 and July 1: while the Head of State or Government of the country chosen his Chairmanship of the vertices, the Minister of Foreign Affairs exercised the Council of Ministers.
With successive enlargements, the principle of the rotating presidency became unmanageable in a European Union of twenty-seven countries. While retaining the rotating presidency for the Council of Ministers, the Lisbon Treaty has introduced for the European Council the appointment of a permanent president, in order to ensure the visibility and permanence to the body bringing together the heads of State or Government and facilitate the emergence of a compromise at the end of each vertex. The European Council President has a term of two and a half years, renewable once. Belgian Herman Van Rompuy took office on January 1, 2010, is the first to enter the station.
Participants at a European Council are:
- Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the European Union,
- President of the European Commission and a member of the Commission (usually the Commissioner for External Relations)
- the Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the European Union,
- Secretary General of the Council of the European Union,
- Secretary General of the European Commission,
- The President of the European Parliament, which is invited to meet the Heads of State and Government,
- and other officials of the priorities set by the President.
Since the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, two functions were added:
- President of the European Council, elected by qualified majority by the Council for a term of two and a half years, renewable once, and can not exercise at the same time a national mandate in his state. Its role is to facilitate the emergence of a compromise between the Council members.
- the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Heads of Member State are generally members of a political party at the national level and many of these parties are linked to European political parties. There is not, for the moment, alliances between European political parties at the European Council, the Heads of State representing their first Member State. However, the table below shows the balance of power in the European Council to establish if it was to be brought to political. Moreover, we can notice a difference in performance compared to the assembly, elected by direct vote of the European Parliament.