The European Semester is the first phase of the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance.
Each European Semester, the European Commission analyses the fiscal and structural reform policies of every Member State, provides recommendations, and monitors their implementation.
In the second phase of the annual cycle, known as the National Semester, Member States implement the policies they have agreed.
The European Semester begins with the publication of the Annual Growth Survey, a report usually published towards the end of the year, in which the Commission sets out the key economic policy priorities for the year to come.
EU leaders consider the report in March and agree on a common direction for fiscal and structural policies as well as financial sector issues.
In April, Member States report to the Commission on the specific policies they are implementing and intend to adopt in order to boost growth and jobs, prevent or correct macroeconomic imbalances, and the concrete measures they plan to ensure compliance with the EU's fiscal rules.
The Commission then assesses the plans of the Member States and makes a series of country-specific recommendations to each of them. These policy recommendations are discussed between Member States' Ministers in June, endorsed by EU leaders in July, and incorporated by governments into their national budgets and other reform plans during the National Semester.
European Semester 2014: strengthening the recovery (European Commission - IP/13/1064, 13 Nov 2013)
The EU's economic governance explained (European Commission - MEMO/13/979, 12 Nov 2013)