The Council of the EU, also called "Council of Ministers" or just "Council", is the institution where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies. The EU Council is a single legal entity, but it meets in 10 different 'configurations', depending on the subject being discussed.
There is no hierarchy among the Council configurations, although the General Affairs Council has a special coordination role and is responsible for institutional, administrative and horizontal matters. The Foreign Affairs Council also has a special remit.
Any of the Council's 10 configurations can adopt an act that falls under the remit of another configuration. Therefore, with any legislative act the Council adopts, no mention is made of the configuration.
Council meetings are attended by representatives from each member state at a ministerial level. Participants can therefore be ministers or state secretaries. They have the right to commit the government of their country and cast its vote. European Commissioners responsible for the areas concerned are also invited to Council meetings. The European Central Bank is invited when they have launched the legislative procedure.
Meetings are chaired by the minister of the member state holding the 6-month Council presidency. The exception is the Foreign Affairs Council, which is usually chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The Council takes its decisions by a simple majority, qualified majority or unanimous vote, depending on the decision that needs to be taken. The Council's standard voting method is qualified majority, used for about 80% of EU legislation.
The Council can vote only if a majority of its members is present.
The Council meets in a public session when it discusses or votes on a proposal for a legislative act. In these cases, the meeting agenda includes a 'legislative deliberation' part. The first deliberation on important non-legislative proposals is also public.
In addition, the Council regularly holds public debates on important issues affecting the interests of the EU and its citizens. The debate on the General Affairs Council's 18 month programme, as well as the priorities of the other Council configurations, and the debate on the Commission's five year programme, are public.