The Citadel Council is the governing body of the Citadel. Convening in the impressive Citadel Tower, the Council is the ultimate authority in Citadel space, passing judgement for violations of Council law, settling disputes between governments, and maintaining law and order, often through the use of its own covert intelligence service, the Spectres.
The Council is an executive committee composed of one representative each from the member species. Though they have no official power over the independent governments of other species, the Council's decisions carry great weight throughout the galaxy. No single Council race is strong enough to defy the others, and all have a vested interest in compromise and cooperation.
Each of the Council species has general characteristics associated with the various aspects of governing the galaxy. The asari are typically seen as diplomats and mediators. The salarians gather intelligence and information. The turians provide the bulk of the military and peacekeeping forces.
Any species granted an embassy on the Citadel is considered an associate member, bound by the accords of the Citadel Conventions. Associate members may bring issues to the attention of the Council, though they have no impact on their final decision.
The Council was founded in 500 BCE – its founding marked the beginning of the Galactic Standard (GS) calendar. The asari, who initially discovered the Citadel (roughly 3,000 years prior to the events of Mass Effect), first suggested forming a governing body aboard the station in partnership with the salarians. The Council guided rapid expansion outward from the Citadel, incorporating many new races onto the station, but no new species was invited to join the Council until 900 CE, when the turians were granted a seat. They gained it after using the genophage to end the Krogan Rebellions and demonstrating their peacekeeping prowess, but even then the turians only became a full Council species after the Council had subjected them to a long period of careful observation. Some krogan, including Wrex, have wondered if, instead of unleashing the genophage independently, the turians might have been secretly supported by the Council.
Under the Council's guidance, Citadel space has enjoyed almost a thousand years of peace, with two major exceptions. The first was the Geth War in 1900 CE, which cost the quarians their embassy and underlined the threat from rogue AI. Tali'Zorah nar Rayya says the quarians asked the Council for help fighting the geth, but the Council refused, presumably because they saw the quarians' actions as genocide.
The second was the First Contact War between humans and turians, which alerted the Council to the existence of the Systems Alliance and its impressive military. They stopped hostilities before the crisis could escalate into full scale interplanetary war, forcing the turians to pay heavy reparations. The repercussions from the First Contact War are still being felt.
Citadel FleetThe Council's most important peacekeeping force is the Citadel Fleet, which polices Citadel space and guards the Citadel itself. Mostly comprised of turian vessels, the Fleet is large enough to station patrols at a vast number of mass relays and still keep a garrison at the Citadel. The flagship of the Fleet is the asari dreadnought Destiny Ascension. The Council is evacuated to the Ascension in the event of an emergency.
The salarians often handle intelligence-gathering operations as part of their Council duties, using the STG (Special Tasks Groups). These are small units of salarian operatives, who monitor developing situations or undertake covert missions.
The Council's elite, invested with the Council's authority, Spectres are vital to keeping the peace across Citadel space. They are individuals who act either on the Council's orders or on their own initiative, to preserve galactic stability. Sometimes, in situations where the Council cannot be seen to act officially, they will send a Spectre instead. Spectres have absolute freedom under the law and answer only to the Council. All details of them are classified.
- 0 CE (approx) — The Citadel Council engages in a brutal war against the rachni. Faced with the possibility of defeat, the salarians transplant the krogan to a new world and begin using them as soldiers for the Council. With the help of the krogan, the rachni are annihilated.
- 700 CE — After seeing aggressive krogan expansion, the Council founds the Spectres as an observation force and possible pre-emptive measure. The Krogan Rebellions begin.
- 800 CE — With help from the turians, the Krogan Rebellions are brought to an end. As a result, the Citadel Conventions against WMDs are drafted.
- 900 CE — The turians join the Council.
- 1900 CE — The quarians ask the Council for help to destroy the rebelling geth, but are refused. Soon afterwards the quarians are asked to leave their embassy on the Presidium for unleashing a dangerous synthetic race on the galaxy.
- 2165 CE — In light of the unauthorized AI research being conducted in secret at Sidon, the Council levies sanctions against the Systems Alliance.
- 2171 CE — The batarians ask the Council to curb human expansion in the Skyllian Verge and declare the Verge to be a zone of batarian interest. The Council refuses, prompting the batarians to close their embassy and sever diplomatic relations.
- 2183 CE — The Council helps to fund a human-turian engineering project, the SSV Normandy, sending Nihlus Kryik to oversee the ship's first mission. After discovering their top Spectre, Saren Arterius, has gone rogue and attacked a human colony, the Council choose the first human Spectre, Commander Shepard, and tasks Shepard with bringing Saren to justice.
- 2183 CE — In the wake of a huge attack on the Citadel, the Council undergoes huge changes due to humanity's expanded role.
Mass Effect: Revelation
After their top Spectre agent, Saren Arterius, reported the Alliance's illegal AI research on Sidon, the Council holographically confronted the first human ambassador, Anita Goyle and announced they would impose heavy sanctions on the Alliance with regular reports from personal overseers. Goyle predicted their ulterior motives - intending to curb humanity's rapid growth and expansion - managed to negotiate a better deal with a passionate speech about humanity's growth as a species.
Goyle later asked for an audience with the Council, diplomatically offering Alliance participation in taking down the rogue AI researcher, Dr. Shu Qian, on Camala. She offered the services of one of the Alliance's most decorated officers, Lieutenant David Anderson and had him paired up with Saren, to assess his Spectre candidacy. As Goyle left, she realised that the Council had anticipated all her requests, agreed measures in advance, and subtly let her know that she had a lot to learn about galactic politics.
Unfortunately, Saren secretly sabotaged the mission and falsified his report to make Anderson look responsible for the destruction of a refinery that killed hundreds of innocent people. It was enough for the Council to bar Anderson from the Spectres. After Saren stole Dr. Qian's research, the Council had no other evidence of the supposed artifact that Dr. Qian had discovered, and refused to investigate further without proof.
Shepard's induction into the Spectres is seen as the first step toward humanity getting a seat on the Citadel Council, but this is a thorny issue as humans are still newcomers. Initially the Council are reluctant to bow to the pressure from Ambassador Udina, but proof of Saren Arterius' treachery, and Saren's vendetta against humans, forces their hand. However, the Council do not want to send their fleet into the Attican Traverse, as this could trigger a war with the Terminus Systems. They task Shepard with tracking Saren down and give the commander authority to use any means necessary to apprehend or eliminate him. At the end of each mission, Shepard has the opportunity to report back to the Council from the Normandy's comm room and discuss matters with them.
Despite this, many humans still see the Citadel Council as anti-human and excessively cautious, which is not entirely unjustified. Much to Shepard's annoyance, throughout the mission the Council refuses to see the Reapers as anything more than a story Saren is using to control the geth, and dismisses the commander's vision as a simple dream. They further justify that their own intelligence sources did not uncover anything Reaper-related. The salarian councilor explains their position: the Council's decisions affect trillions of lives across the galaxy, and they cannot act on the say-so of a single person, even a Spectre, without evidence.
After Shepard discovers that the Conduit is on Ilos, gains the co-ordinates for the Mu Relay to reach the planet and discovers that Saren and Sovereign are planning to attack the Citadel itself, the Council sends word that they are putting together a massive joint-species fleet to handle Saren and the geth. But when Shepard returns, the commander realizes the Council are only prepared to put up a blockade to stop Saren reaching the Citadel itself, and they have no intention of going to Ilos. The Mu Relay's position means a Council fleet there could start a war with the Terminus Systems. The Council remains convinced that the Reapers aren't real, only seeing Saren as a master manipulator who plots to attack the Citadel and wouldn't reveal his true motives. Shepard's protests only result in the Normandy being grounded by Udina, while the Council quietly closes diplomatic channels.
Shepard manages to escape the Citadel, but the Council has no time to retaliate, as they are soon faced with a massive geth armada led by Sovereign. When the Citadel fails to respond, the Council is evacuated to the Destiny Ascension, which then comes under heavy fire. Shepard, returning to the Citadel via the Conduit, has a choice of how to deploy the Alliance Navy ships as reinforcements, ultimately deciding the fate of the Council and the future politics of Citadel space.
Focusing on Sovereign or abandoning the Council sees the Destiny Ascension destroyed and the Council killed, resulting in a human Council being formed (either in concert with other races or alone) with Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina as chairman. Alternatively the Alliance fleet can save the Ascension and the Council, albeit at the cost of many human lives - in this event, the Council accepts that the Reapers are real and humans are invited to join the Council, with either Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina as representative. Either way, the galaxy would look to humanity and the Council for guidance against the Reaper threat.
Mass Effect Galaxy
The Council was contacted by the batarian ambassador, Jath'Amon, with the intention of bringing about a reconciliation between the batarians and the Citadel races. Meanwhile, Jacob Taylor, a former marine of the Systems Alliance, was investigating batarian activity with the help of informant Miranda Lawson. During their investigations, they discovered that the true purpose of the peace talks was to facilitate an assassination attempt on the Council by means of a deadly bio-weapon.
After confronting Jath'Amon with the evidence of his treachery during a Council meeting, the batarian released the weapon and infected the Council. Jacob repelled the batarian insurgents and brought Jath'Amon to justice. With the help of an antidote manufactured by the asari scientist Batha, the councilors were cured of their infection before any major harm could befall them.
Mass Effect: Ascension
After the siege of the Citadel, humans are granted either a seat on the council, or full control of the Council depending on Commander Shepard's actions. The two most likely candidates for the human seat on the Council are Captain David Anderson or Ambassador Udina. The other races are heavily dependent on the Alliance's navy and military to destroy the geth. However, figures like the Illusive Man feel that alien distrust of humanity will quickly return.
Mass Effect 2
If the Council is saved, then humanity gains their full trust. Either Anderson or Udina is appointed as the human Councilor, with the other becoming their assistant. But nonetheless, there is not enough evidence to prove to the Council that the Reapers exist, even from what few fragments of Sovereign were recovered. When Commander Shepard returned from the dead, thanks to Cerberus, the Council was skeptical of their former Spectre's claims about the Collectors abducting human colonies. They were even more wary that Shepard was working with Cerberus, considering it treason. Should Anderson be chosen, he would stand up for his protegee. Though the Council could not take any official action, they offer to grant Shepard back full Spectre privileges on the condition that the Commander restrict operations to the Terminus Systems. Whether Shepard accepts the offer or not is up to the player and has little impact on the game.
If the original Council died in Mass Effect, the new Council refuses to meet with Shepard -- although if Anderson is the human Councilor, he will arrange for Shepard to be reinstated. If Udina is the Councilor, Shepard will not regain his Spectre membership. (If a player does not import their character from Mass Effect, this will be the default story.)
- In Mass Effect, the turian councilor is voiced by Alastair Duncan, the asari councilor is voiced by Jan Alexandra Smith and the salarian councilor is voiced by Armin Shimerman.
- A report by the Cerberus Daily News refers to the asari councilor as "Councilor Tevos". In Mass Effect 2 on the Citadel, an Emily Wong news vid on the Citadel refers to another one of the councilors as "Councilor Valern", but does not clarify if the turian or salarian councilor is being named.