Decision-making in the European Union24 August 2006
by eub2 -- last modified 01 August 2012
Decision-making in the European Union involves a number of institutions, in particular the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
In general, it is the European Commission that proposes new legislation, but it is the Council and Parliament that pass the laws. In some cases, the Council can act alone. Other institutions also have roles to play.
The main forms of EU law are directives and regulations. The rules and procedures for EU decision-making are laid down in the treaties. Every proposal for a new European law is based on a specific treaty article, referred to as the ‘legal basis’ of the proposal. This determines which legislative procedure must be followed. The three main procedures are ‘consultation’, ‘assent’ and ‘co-decision’.
This is the procedure now used for most EU law-making. In the codecision procedure, Parliament does not merely give its opinion: it shares legislative power equally with the Council. If Council and Parliament cannot agree on a piece of proposed legislation, it is put before a conciliation committee, composed of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives. Once this committee has reached an agreement, the text is sent once again to Parliament and the Council so that they can finally adopt it as law. Conciliation is becoming increasingly rare. Most laws passed in co-decision are, in fact, adopted either at the first or second reading as a result of good cooperation between the three institutions.
The assent procedure means that the Council has to obtain the European Parliament's assent before certain very important decisions are taken.
The procedure is the same as in the case of consultation, except that Parliament cannot amend a proposal: it must either accept or reject it. Acceptance (‘assent’) requires an absolute majority of the vote cast.
The assent procedure is mostly used for agreements with other countries, including the agreements allowing new countries to join the EU.
The consultation procedure is used in areas such as agriculture, taxation and competition. Based on a proposal from the Commission, the Council consults Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.
approve the Commission proposal,
or ask for amendments.
If Parliament asks for amendments, the Commission will consider all the changes Parliament suggests. If it accepts any of these suggestions it will send the Council an amended proposal.
The Council examines the amended proposal and either adopts it or amends it further. In this procedure, as in all others, if the Council amends a Commission proposal it must do so unanimously.
Source: European Commission