The members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part in European Council meetings when foreign affairs issues are discussed. It meets at least four times a year and elects its President for a period of two and a half years. An extraordinary meeting can be held whenever necessary.
The role of the European Council, as the highest political body of the EU, is to provide the European Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define the general political guidelines. It defines the EU's overall political direction and priorities. It is not one of the EU's legislating institutions, so does not negotiate or adopt EU laws. Instead it sets the EU's policy agenda, traditionally by adopting 'conclusions' during European Council meetings which identify issues of concern and actions to take.