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The European Council

The European Council is actually a group of councils, one for the prime ministers of each country (the European Council) and others for the national ministers responsible for agriculture, finance, agriculture and so on (the Council of Europe).

It essentially allows members of state to guard their national interests and to sort out disagreements between them and deal with controversial issues.

The Treaty of Rome had always allowed for a majority vote rather than unanimity, with the larger countries having extra votes based on their populations.  De Gaulle refused to accept the implementation of this and so, until 1986, each member effectively had a veto over any decision (the Luxembourg Compromise).

The Single European Act introduced Qualified Majority Voting, as originally envisaged, for matters that would complete the single market and this has gradually been extended to other areas. Countries used to have a six month Presidency in rotation and sought to push a particular agenda but there is now a permanent President.

The Council of Permanent Representatives.

Each country has a high ranking official in Brussels whose job it is to keep in touch with what the national view is, find out what the views are in the Commission and, increasingly, in the European Parliament and sort out with other Permanent Representatives what the agenda of the Council should be.