Article 240(1) TFEU lays down that ‘a committee consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the latter.’ Coreper, which takes its acronym from the French Comité des représentants permanents, is made up of the head or deputy head of mission from the EU Member States in Brussels. Its defined role is to prepare the agenda for the ministerial Council of the European Union meetings; it may also take some procedural decisions. It oversees and coordinates the work of some 250 committees and working parties made up of civil servants from the Member States who work on issues at the technical level to be discussed later by Coreper and the Council. It is chaired by the Presidency of the Council.
Coreper plays a pivotal role in the Community decision-making system, where it is a forum for both dialogue (between the permanent representatives and between each of them and their capital) and political control (orientation and supervision of the work of the groups of experts). Although not empowered to take substantive decisions, Coreper processes Commission initiatives and sets the Council agenda. Many important decisions, including those in the policy area of employment and industrial relations, are therefore effectively taken in Coreper. It is Coreper that initiates the detailed discussions, undertakes negotiations and determines the final compromises on employment and industrial relations policy, later ratified by decisions in the Council.