European Council

European Council
a body both within and outside the European Union. The European Council brings together the heads of state or of government of the member states and the President of the Commission of the European Union. They are assisted by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and by a member of the Commission. It meets at least twice a year.
Quite the most curious body in the European Communities, its origins lie in the time when the Council of the European Union had given up voting by qualified majority and tried to seek unanimity. Decision-making became more difficult, and momentum was sought from the extra-Community intergovernmental Conference of Heads of State or Government because the parties at this gathering were eligible to be members of the Council proper. As a result of a resolution of that body, in 1974 the parties agreed to meet three times a year and whenever necessary to constitute themselves as the Council. When they meet, the President and senior vice-president of the Commission attend. In practice, it does keep to overall policy and tries to consider issues of development and policy and the clearing of log jams. Its success has been rewarded by recognition in the Single European Act.

Collins dictionary of law. . 2001.

European Council
Informally known as the European Summit. A meeting of heads of state or government of the member states and the president of the European Commission. The European Council meets two or three times a year and gives the political lead to the European Union.
Europa website:
Related links
+ European Council
European Union
The European Council (unofficially called European summit) defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, it has become an institution. Its President is Herman Van Rompuy.
The European Council consists of the Heads of State or Government of the member states, together with its President and the President of the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy takes part in its work. When the agenda so requires, the members of the European Council may decide each to be assisted by a minister and, in the case of the President of the Commission, by a member of the Commission.
The European Council meets twice every six months, convened by its President. When the situation so requires, the President will convene a special meeting of the European Council. Decisions of the European Council are normally taken by consensus. In some cases, it adopts decisions by unanimity or by qualified majority, depending on what the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires.
The European Council elects its President by a qualified majority. The President's term of office is two and a half years, renewable once.
For more detailed information, see PLC EU, EU Toolkit: EU institutions.

Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms. . 2010.