The General Affairs Council plays a fundamental role in the European Union’s system of internal and external relations. Its focus is the general coordination of the EU’s sector policies, institutional and administrative concerns, as well as those regarding the Union’s various policies such as its multi-year financial picture and enlargement. Additionally, given its cross-competence, it ensures consistency in the work of the various council formations and prepares the meetings of the European Council, ensuring that their results are conveyed to the President of the European Council and the Commission.
The Foreign Affairs Council handles the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. According to the Treaty for European Union, it is responsible for drafting the Union’s external policies in keeping with the strategies established by the European Council, and for consistency in the Union’s actions; included in this context are the common security and defence policy, trade issues, development assistance and humanitarian interventions. In order to ensure consistency in all aspects of the Union’s external actions, the meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council are chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy appointed by the President of the Commission. In addition to this task, the High Representative, which is also the Vice President of the Commission, must also make proposals for the drafting of the common foreign and security policy. In the execution of these tasks, this office avails itself of a European External Action Services department made up of officials from the Secretariat General of the Council and the Commission as well as of personnel seconded from Member State diplomatic services.