The Council of the European Union is the forum in which ministers from EU Member States' governments meet. The meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs Council usually involve ministers from the home or interior departments. The JHA Council meets several (usually five or six) times a year. In between these meetings, a wide range of working parties and preparatory bodies attached to the JHA Council discuss, debate and amend legislation and policy. A chart outlining the changes over the last decade to these bodies can be found here.
JHA COUNCIL MEETINGS
The meetings of the JHA Council are documented in a Statewatch Observatory. The Observatory contains the Agendas, "A" and "B" points, press releases, and minutes/"outcomes" (outcome of proceedings, or OP) of the European Union's Justice and Home Affairs Council meetings from 1993 (when it was created) to the present.
JHA COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS
After its meetings, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will adopt 'conclusions' on certain issues that have been discussed. Listings and analysis of these are contained in a Statewatch Observatory.
Council Conclusions are termed "soft law" as they are not legally binding on EU member states. However, "Conclusions" are political statements by the Council and enable (and legitimate) cooperation between two or more member states which may involve changes in practices or the law at national level and allows them to undertake joint operational action. As such they have been used by as few as three member states or by all. Conclusions also set out the direction of policies to be pursued when the European Commission initiates a proposal. The European and national parliaments have no say at all regarding their content.
Since 11 September 2001 Council Conclusions have played an increasingly significant policy-making function and are discussed at length in the working parties. Council Resolutions have the same legal effect as Conclusions.