Written by Josephine Vanden Broucke and Stanislas de Finance

When all 28 Heads of State or Government meet in the “European Council” to discuss the direction the European Union should follow and what strategy to use, it’s bound to be important. Following up on what the European Council decides in its “Conclusions” is essential for democratic control in Europe.

Since June 2014, we assist the Parliament in exercising this oversight role. To do so we monitor and analyse the delivery of the European Council on the commitments made in the conclusions of its meetings, as well as its various responsibilities.

The rolling check-list of commitments

In the “European Council Conclusions: Rolling Check-List of Commitment to Date” we systematically oversee and scrutinize decisions of the European Council and monitor the degree of progress in the fields of: 1) Financial and Economic Affairs, 2) Employment and social policies, 3) Competitiveness, 4) Climate and Energy, 5) Freedom, Security and Justice, and 6) External Policies.

This publication is updated four times a year and gives an overview of the conclusions and commitments from 2010 onwards. the last edition was published in December 2014.

Country Specific Recommendations

Summary of the results by specific policy areaEurope being an Economic and Monetary Union with the Euro as a common currency in 18 countries, economic, monetary and fiscal policies are closely coordinated. In a process called “the European Semester”, Member States agree to implement certain budgetary and socio-economic policies and to carry out structural reforms proposed by the Commission and endorsed by the European Council before being formally adopted every year by the Council.

We check on whether Member States live up to their promises and carry out these so-called “Country Specific Recommendations” (CSRs). We publish scorecards, the last one being on the execution of the 2013 CSRs in 14 Member States.

The results were far from encouraging: our recent study found that the implementation of Country-Specific Recommendations was poor and continued to lose momentum in 2013 compared to 2011-12. In particular, the “no implementation” rates of the 2013 CSRs in the areas of public finances and structural reforms were above the 50% global average “no implementation” rate, at 56% and 52% respectively.

Outlook for the European Council meetings

Finally, before the meetings of the European Council we publish an “Outlook“, where we provide information on the items that will be discussed by the Heads of State or Government.

Looking ahead

What to expect in 2015? Will the European Council fulfil its strategic role, or will it get dragged into operational detail? Come and see next January, when its new President will report for the first time to the Parliament during the Strasbourg plenary session.

About the European Council

Heads of State or Government first met in 1975. Five years ago, in December 2009 when the Treaty of Lisbon took effect, the so-called “European Council” formally became one of the seven EU institutions with a permanent, full-time President. Herman Van Rompuy was the first one, his successor Donald Tusk taking over on 1 December 2014. The President of the European Commission is a non-voting member of the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs also takes part in its work.

The European Council does not adopt laws, as it is up to the Commission to propose legislation and for the European Parliament and the Council (of Ministers, not to be confused with the European Council) to jointly decide on it. But the European Council, consisting of all of Europe’s Heads of State or Government, does set out where Europe is going. That’s what we systematically analyse, oversee and scrutinize, not only what is in those European Council conclusions, but also how and to what extent they are carried out, creating effects for all of Europe’s citizens.