Leaders’ meetings were clearly an innovation in the European Council’s working methods. Although informal meetings of EU Heads of State or Government have existed for a long time, the novelty of the Leaders’ meetings is that they are informed by a Leaders’ Agenda note (see Figure 1), and aim at preparing an agreement for a subsequent formal European Council or Euro Summit.
This inbuilt follow-up mechanism creates a direct link between the informal leaders’ meeting and a subsequent formal European Council meeting (or meetings), where the results of the informal discussions are translated into formal European Council conclusions and sometimes expanded upon (see below). This can be seen in the work programme of the Leaders’ Agenda, where, for every topic identified for a leaders’ meeting, a subsequent formal European Council is due to address this topic. This planning also enabled the individual members of the European Council, as well as the other European institutions, to prepare ahead of the meeting. For example, in addition to the Leaders’ notes drafted by the European Council President to inform a leaders’ meeting, the European Commission also provided contributions to Leaders’ meetings, such as for the debate on migration and the discussion on the future institutional framework.