The European Council (French: Conseil européen), charged with defining the EU's overall political direction and priorities, is the institution of the European Union (EU) that comprises the heads of state or government of the member states, along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part in its meetings. Established as an informal summit in 1975, the European Council was formalised as an institution in 2009 upon the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Its current President is Donald Tusk.
While the European Council has no formal legislative power, it is a strategic (and crisis-solving) body that provides the union with general political directions and priorities, and acts as a collective presidency. The European Commission remains the sole initiator of legislation, but the European Council is able to provide an impetus to guide legislative policy.
The meetings of the European Council, still commonly referred to as EU summits, are chaired by its president and take place at least twice every six months; usually in the Europa buildingin Brussels. Decisions of the European Council are taken by consensus, except where the Treaties provide otherwise.