At their informal meeting in Brussels on 19 November 2009, ahead of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December, EU Heads of State or Government unanimously agreed to appoint Herman VAN ROMPUY the first, permanent President of the European Council.
He took office when the Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009. His first term stretched until 31 May, 2012.
On 1 March 2012 Herman Van Rompuy was appointed for a second term starting on 1 June 2012 and ending on 30 November 2014.
■ What does the President of the European Council do?
According to Article 15 (6) of the Treaty on the European Union, the President of the European Council:
- chairs it and drives forward its work;
- ensures the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;
- endeavours to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;
- presents a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council.
He also, at his level and in that capacity, ensures the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
He may not hold a national office at the same time as being President.
■ How is the President of the European Council elected and how long is his mandate?
According to the Treaty, the European Council elects its President by a qualified majority. A Presidential term is two and a half years, renewable once.
■ What supporting staff does the President of the European Council have?
The European Council is assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC). The staff of the GSC is therefore at the President's disposal, including the Directorate for general political questions, the Legal Service, policy experts, translation services, protocol, press office, etc.
The President has his own private office, the Cabinet of the President.
■ Where are the offices of the President of the European Council located?
The President has his office, as from appointment, at the Council's Justus Lipsius building. Once the new European Council building has been completed as estimated in 2013, the President will have his seat there.
■ What is the history of the European Council President function?
Under the Treaty of Lisbon adopted in 2009, the President of the European Council became a stable and full-time function.
Prior to that, the head of the European Council was an unofficial position since, when created in 1975, the European Council was established as an informal body. The position was held by the Head of State or Government of the Member State holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union at any given time. The Presidency rotated between the Member States every six months.