The Economic and Financial Affairs configuration of the Council of the EU is known as the ECOFIN Council, or ECOFIN. It is made up of the finance ministers and economic affairs ministers from all EU member states. There are generally eleven ECOFIN Council meetings per year. Twice a year, the meetings are informal. This means that the participants exchange views, but do not make any formal decisions.
Along with the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union is the EU’s main decision-making and legislative body. The Council of the EU is a single entity, but it meets in different configurations, depending on the subject being discussed. The meetings are attended by the ministers from each member state who are responsible for the relevant portfolio.
The ECOFIN Council primarily deals with the following topics:
- Economic policy coordination and supervision
- Monitoring of the budgetary policies of member states
- The euro: legal, practical and international aspects
- Tax policy
- Financial markets and capital movements; economic relations with third countries
- EU budget
The ECOFIN Council makes most of its decisions by qualified majority. However, tax matters require unanimous decisions.
Together with the European Parliament, the ECOFIN Council prepares and adopts the annual budget of the European Union every year, which has an average volume of approximately €150 billion.
The topics discussed at the ECOFIN Council meetings are prepared by the Council working parties, especially the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC). Held about ten days ahead of ECOFIN Council meetings, EFC meetings are attended by the competent state secretaries or other senior officials and by representatives of the national central banks, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.
The Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) is the main preparatory body for the Council of the EU, including the ECOFIN Council. It is made up of the heads of mission from the EU member states in Brussels. COREPER prepares the topics from the working parties for the ECOFIN Council meeting by either resolving contentious issues in advance or presenting them to the Council in a concise way for decision-making.