Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex I


  In order fully to exercise its role of providing impetus and of defining the general political guidelines of the Union in accordance with Article 4 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Council has agreed on the following rules for the preparation, conduct and conclusions of its proceedings:


  1.  The European Council shall meet in principle four times a year (twice every six months). In exceptional circumstances, the European Council may convene an extraordinary meeting.

  2.  European Council meetings shall be prepared by the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which shall co-ordinate all the preparatory work and draw up the agenda. Contributions by other configurations of the Council to the proceedings of the European council shall be forwarded to the General Affairs and External Relations Council not later than two weeks before the European Council meeting.

  3.  At a meeting held at least four weeks before the European Council, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, acting on a Presidency proposal, shall draw up an annotated draft agenda distinguishing between:

    —  items to be approved or endorsed without debate;

    —  items for discussion with a view to defining general political guidelines;

    —  items for discussion with a view to adopting a decision as described in paragraph 9 below;

    —  items for discussion but not intended to be the subject of conclusions.

  4.  For each of the items referred to in the second and third indents of paragraph 3 above, the Presidency shall prepare a brief outline paper setting out the issues, the questions to be debated and the main options available.

  5.  On the eve of the European Council meeting, the General Affairs and External Relations Council shall hold a final preparatory session and adopt the definitive agenda, to which no item may subsequently be added without the agreement of all delegations.

  Except for urgent and unforeseeable reasons linked, for example, to current international events, no Council or committee may meet between the final preparatory session of the General Affairs and External Relations Council and the European Council meeting.


  6.  In principle, the proceedings of the European Council shall last for one full day, preceded the day before by a meeting restricted to Heads of State or Government and the President of the Commission, in line with current practice. The European Council meeting the next day shall continue until the end of the afternoon and shall be preceded by an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament. Specific arrangements may be made if justified by the agenda.

  7.  Meetings in the margins of the European Council with representatives of third States or organisations may be held in exceptional circumstances only. They must not disrupt the normal conduct of proceedings of the European Council meeting and they must be approved at the same time as the draft agenda drawn up by the General Affairs and External Relations Council.

  8.  The Presidency shall ensure that business is conducted smoothly. To this end, it may take any measure conducive to promoting the best possible use of the time available, such as organising the order in which items are discussed, limiting speaking time and determining the order in which contributors speak.

  9.  In the context of enlargement and in exceptional cases, where an item is placed on the agenda of the European Council for a decision, the European Council shall discuss the item concerned. The political conclusions drawn from the positions emerging during the discussion shall be brought to the attention of the Council so that it may consider the implications for subsequent proceedings, in accordance with the applicable Treaty provisions.

  10.  Delegations shall receive summary briefings on the outcome and substance of the discussions on each item as proceedings continue. Such briefings shall be organised in such a way as to safeguard the confidentiality of discussions.

  11.  Each delegation shall have two seats in the meeting room. The total size of delegations shall be limited to 20 people per Member State and for the Commission. This number shall not include technical personnel assigned to specific security or logistic support tasks.


  12.  The conclusions, which shall be as concise as possible, shall set out policy guidelines and decisions reached by the European Council, placing them briefly in their context and indicating the stages of the procedure to follow on from them.

  13.  An outline of the conclusions shall be distributed on the day of the European Council meeting in good time for the start of proceedings. The outline shall distinguish clearly between those parts of the text which have previously been approved and which are not in principle subject to discussion and those parts of the text which the European council is to discuss with a view to reaching final conclusions at the meeting.

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Prepared 16 October 2002