All regulations and procedures related to the decision-making process are established by the respective treaties or agreements. Each proposal for legislation is anchored in a specific article of the founding treaties, which also determines, among other things, the legislative route for the adoption of such a proposal. Within the EU there are four basic procedures for the adoption of legislation - the consultation, assent, cooperation and co-decision procedures (described in detail below). The key difference between the individual procedures is the degree of involvement of the EU institutions. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council play the mot important roles in the decision-making process. The European Commission puts forward new legislation while the Parliament and the Council adopt it.
Four decision-making procedures
The co-decision procedure, put in place by the Treaty on European Union, was designed to tie in with the cooperation procedure. It was subsequently simplified by the Amsterdam Treaty and extended to other areas by the Treaty of Nice.
Qualified majority voting in the Council of the EU
The ongoing institutional reform of the EU has extended the number of areas where the Council uses qualified majority for the voting. Qualified majority voting is considered to be more effective and faster and, therefore it gradually replaces the unanimous vote. A unanimous vote remains in use in sensitive areas such as the foreign policy of the Member States, their internal matters or taxation issues.
The qualified majority determines the number of votes of the Council representatives which are required to make a decision on the basis of Article 205 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). Three conditions must be met simultaneously for proper adoption of the proposal: the proposal must be approved by the vote of 1) the simple majority of the Member States (e.g. at least 14 out of the 27 Member States); 2) at least 62% of the EU population, and 3) states putting together at least 255 votes from the total of 345 votes which are distributed between the Member States.
Distribution of votes for each Member State in the European Council (as of 1.1.2007)
Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom
Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal
Austria, Sweden, Bulgaria
Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Finland
Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia
If any of the Member States disagree with the proposal being discussed, they may prevent its adoption by creating a blocking minority. Such states need to put together at least 30% of the vote. If the disagreeing states reach between 25% and 30% of the vote, the negotiations continue until these votes fall below 25% or until the act is approved by 75% of all the votes of the Council members.
Acts adopted by the European Council may take the form of regulations, directives, decisions, common actions, common positions, recommendations, opinions, conclusions, declarations or resolutions. When the Council acts as legislator, it is principally the European Commission that submits legislative proposals. The Council considers such proposals and may amend them before they are adopted.
Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02