The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meets once a month and deals with all aspects of the European Union’s external policy, but also Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Foreign Trade Policy and Development Cooperation. It defines and implements the EU's foreign and security policy, based on guidelines set by the European Council. The Foreign Affairs Council is composed of the foreign ministers from all EU member states, but it also brings together defence, development or trade ministers, depending on the agenda.
The Council can launch EU crisis management actions, both civil and military. The military operations are managed and funded by the Athena mechanism. The Council can also adopt measures needed to implement the EU's foreign and security policy, including possible sanctions.
The Council is permanently chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Federica Mogherini. The High Representative is assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS). She conducts political dialogue with third countries and is responsible for expressing the EU’s positions in international organisations. However, the High Representative of the Union who is also vice-president of the European Commission does not have the monopoly on the EU’s external representation, a task also assigned to the president of the European Council.
As it is an exclusive competence of the EU, the Council adopts measures implementing the EU's common commercial policy together with the European Parliament. This includes trade and investment relations, intellectual property rights and foreign direct investment.