The European Council was created in 1974 with the intention of establishing an informal forum for discussion between Heads of State or Government. It acquired a formal status in the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, which defined its function as providing the impetus and general political guidelines for the Union's development. On 1 December 2009, with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, it became one of the seven institutions of the Union. The European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union.
European Council Website