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Explainer: EU - Who Chairs What

26.03.2013, 17:21 GMT

Since the Lisbon Treaty there have been a number of changes regarding who chairs what meeting in the EU system. As this can get confusing, below is a quick outline to help explain who does what.

If you want more information about the Institutions, check out the EU Explained section of this site.


Chair: Permanent position (currently Jeroen Dijsselbloem)

The Eurogroup, the main forum for the management of the single currency area, is an informal body that brings together the finance ministers of countries whose currency is the euro.

The Commission’s Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs, as well as the President of the European Central Bank, also participate in Eurogroup meetings.

The Eurogroup meets at least once a month, usually on the day before the ECOFIN (see below) to discuss matters particular to the euro. They can also call additional meetings when required.

This group has a permanent chairperson. Currently, it is the Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who took over this position in January 2013 from Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg. 

The country holding the Presidency of the Council attends the Eurogroup as a national delegation.


Chair: Rotating six-month Presidency (currently Minister for Finance Michael Noonan)

‌Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) is a meeting of the Economics and Finance Ministers of all 27 EU Member States. When budgetary issues are discussed, Budget Ministers also attend.

They meet once a month in Brussels to discuss economic policy and budgetary policy.  They receive a report of the Eurogroup meeting taking place before ECOFIN, and consider any legislative or other issues that arise from Eurogroup which may require decision by the 27 Member States.

The Finance Minister of the country holding the Presidency chairs ECOFIN, so from January to June 2013 the Irish Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, chairs these meetings.

European Council

Chair: Permanent position (President Herman Van Rompuy)

The European Council is made up of Heads of State or Heads of Government of all 27 EU Member States. Also attending these meetings are the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso.  The High Representative, Catherine Ashton, takes part in its work. European Parliament President Martin Schulz also addresses this meeting.

European leaders meet formally at the European Council four times a year.  They can also call additional meetings when required.  At these meetings, European leaders define the general political direction and priorities of the European Union.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny represents Ireland at the European Council and has specific Presidency-related involvement in contacts with the Presidents of EU institutions as well as in certain key meetings such as the EU Social Summit.

Euro summit

Chair: Permanent position (President Herman Van Rompuy)

The Euro Summit brings together the heads of state or government of European Union countries that have adopted the euro, the President of the Euro Summit and the President of the European Commission. The President of the European Central Bank is also invited to take part in these meetings.

The Eurogroup is responsible for the preparation and follow-up of Euro Summit meetings, and its President may be invited to take part in meetings.

The current chairperson of Euro Summit meetings is Herman van Rompuy. Read the Euro Summits recently-adopted rules of procedure.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny represents Ireland at Euro Summits.

General Affairs Council (GAC)

‌Chair:  Rotating six-month Presidency (currently Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Eamon Gilmore TD)

The General Affairs Council (GAC) is a meeting of Foreign Ministers of all EU Member States. Ministers for EU Affairs may also participate in these meetings.

At this meeting, Ministers prepare for the European Council (see below) and follow up on European Council meetings. Ministers also deal with cross cutting issues, such as EU enlargement or the EU budget.

They meet at least once a month in Brussels, usually the same week as the European Council, or on the same day as the Foreign Affairs Council (see also below).

If the country holding the Presidency makes a comment about GAC meetings, they are doing so from a Presidency point of view.

Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)

Chair: Under the Lisbon Treaty, for the most part a permanent position (currently Commissioner Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) with other aspects led by the six-month rotating Presidency. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Eamon Gilmore, is Ireland’s lead representative at the FAC

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) is a meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of all 27 EU Member States. These Ministers attend monthly meetings in Brussels to discuss current foreign policy issues.  Ministers also discuss trade, security, defence and development matters. 

For all matters of foreign policy, this Council is chaired by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.  This was a new position created by the Lisbon Treaty. As High Representative, Catherine Ashton builds consensus between the EU member states, chairs the Foreign Affairs Council for matters regarding foreign policy, represents the EU at the UN and attends regular meetings of the European Council (see below).

When it is matters of foreign policy, the country holding the Presidency speaks from a national point of view unless they are chairing the meeting.

The Presidency does play some roles in this Council. For development, trade and security issues, the six month rotating Presidency chairs the discussion. For the Irish Presidency, this means that Minister Joe Costello (Development), Minister Richard Bruton (Trade) and Minister Alan Shatter (Defence) will lead discussions. 

Also due to the heavy travel schedule of the High Representative, the Presidency (Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore or Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton) sometimes represents Catherine Ashton at the European Parliament on foreign policy issues.

All other formations of the Council

All other formations of the Council are chaired by the rotating Presidency, currently Ireland, i.e.

        Justice and Home Affairs

        Agriculture and Fisheries


        Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs


        Transport, Telecoms and Energy

        Education, Youth and Culture

Find more information on each of these policy areas.

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