The article is devoted to the evolution of the place and the role of the European Council in the institutional mechanism of the European Union. The reasons of the establishment of the new body are analyzed; the evolution of its legal status is observed; the ways of ensuring legitimacy and its role in the regulation of the European Communities activities are determined. It is noted that it took the integration unit about thirty years to formalize the legal status of the European Council. The European Council is the highest political body empowered to make such crucial for the integration decisions as the questions as for the approval of the EU reforming directions; creation of new and change of the legal status of already existing institutions and organs; resolution of personnel issues and the questions as for the institutions and bodies of the Union location; decisions as for the circle of the countries to grant the right to join the Union and time boundaries for their membership; long-time Union budget planning; decisions as for the list and content of the bailout actions, and so on. There were changes in the powers of the European Council’s legislation sphere during integration development process: if earlier it produced documents called ’conclusions’ which were political documents, but today it can make legal acts in the form of ’decisions’ which, truly said, can not be directed at the unification or harmonization of the Member States law. Besides, the Lisbon Treaty established direct prohibition for the European Council to participate in the legislation process of the Union. The article states that the prohibition for the European Council to participate in the legislation process is not consistent with its right to make decisions by which the founding treaties are amended and clarified. Following this, the stated prohibition should be interpreted as unreasonableness of the European Council participation in the legislation process in the sense of adoption of new and renewal of the current (secondary) legislation of the EU, which does not exclude its right and even duty to play the key role in the adoption and renewal of the ’constitutional’ legislation of the EU. The analysis of the powers of the European Council and the practice of its interaction with the other European Union institutions allows to conclude that in spite of its status, it has always played an important role in the realization of the principle of institutional balance. As the result of the analysis of its role and place in the institutional mechanism it is concluded that gradually the European Council is acquiring the status which conventionally allows to compare it with the Head (President) of the national state.
Keywords: the European Union, the European Council, the EU institutional mechanism