The European Council is the EU's top political body. It meets, as a rule, four times a year to fix priorities and goals for the Union and to set the course for achieving them.
This policy-making forum brings together the 27 heads of state or government of the member states and the President of the Commission. They are usually assisted by the Foreign Affairs ministers, together with a member of the Commission.
Deliberations are prepared and contributions by different Council formations are coordinated by the General Affairs and External Relations Council. It meets on the eve of the summit, on this occasion on 10 March. During the European Council meeting, seating is limited so as to create an atmosphere conducive to effective high-level discussions.
Nowadays (since 2002) European leaders meet at the Council's headquarters in Brussels. The summit receives significant media attention and regularly more than 1500 journalists flock to Brussels to cover the event.
At each spring meeting, the leaders review the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment. At this year's meeting they will also discuss, amongst other issues, the stability of financial markets and the climate change and energy package.
The meeting generally lasts for a day and a half. At the close of the second day's session, "Presidency Conclusions" setting out policy guidelines and decisions are distributed to the media and made available to the public on this website.