With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council became one of the European Union institutions.
Comprising the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, it meets at least four times a year and includes the President of the European Commission as a full member. It elects its President for a period of two and a half years.
The role of the European Council is to provide the European Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define the general political guidelines. It does not exercise any legislative function. However, the Treaty of Lisbon provides the option for the European Council to be consulted on criminal matters or on social security matters in cases where a State opposes a legislative proposal in these areas. Decisions are taken following negotiations between Member States during European summits. The outcomes of European Council proceedings are recorded in conclusions published after each meeting. An extraordinary meeting can be held whenever necessary.