This chapter examines the institution that brings together the national leaders of the EU member states. From being only very marginally involved in activities in the early days of the European Communities, the leaders, meeting in the European Council, have increasingly established ‘their’ institution as the de facto ‘head of governance’ of the EU. Although no provision was made in the founding treaties for summit meetings of Heads of Government, a few such gatherings did occur in the 1960s and early 1970s. At the Paris summit in 1974 it was decided to institutionalise these meetings with the establishment of what soon became known as the European Council. The main reason for the creation of the European Council was a growing feeling that the Community was failing to respond adequately or quickly enough to new and increasingly difficult challenges.
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