Decision-making Procedures

The ‘ordinary’ legislative procedure is the main rule in most areas, with the exception of foreign and security policy. This means that the EP and the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, jointly adopt a regulation, directive, or decision (Art 289 TFEU). The procedure is quite complicated.

The process, as defined in Article 294 TFEU, starts with the Commission submitting a proposal to the Parliament and the Council. The EP adopts a position at the first reading (committee treatment) and sends it to the Council. If the Council approves the EP’s position, the act shall be adopted in the wording which corresponds to the Parliament’s position. If the Council does not approve the Parliament’s position, it shall adopt its own reasoned opinion and send it to the EP.

The second reading in the Parliament is more complex. If the EP, within three months after the Council has communicated its position, approves it at its first reading or does not take a decision within that time, the act shall be considered as adopted in the wording which corresponds to the Council’s position. If the Parliament rejects by a majority of its members the Council’s position, the proposed act is considered as not adopted. If, as a third alternative, the EP, by a majority of its members, makes amendments in the Council’s position at the first reading, the amended text is forwarded to the Council and the Commission. The Commission shall give its opinion on the proposed amendments. If the Council, acting by qualified majority, approves all the amendments within three months, the act is deemed adopted. If the Commission rejects the proposed amendments, the Council can adopt the act only by unanimous decision.

If the Council does not approve all the proposed amendments, its President, after consultation with the President of the Parliament, shall convene the so-called Conciliation Committee. This consists of representatives of the EP and the Council. This committee shall, within six weeks, adopt a joint draft.[1] If it fails to do so, the proposed act will be deemed not adopted. If the Conciliation Committee adopts a joint text, the EP and the Council shall each, within six weeks from the time of adoption of the draft by the Committee, have a third reading of the act and approve it in accordance with the said draft. The EP shall adopt the act by a majority of the votes cast, the Council by qualified majority. If not, the proposed act shall be deemed not to have been adopted.

For certain issues relating to environmental policy, the ordinary legislative procedure does not apply and a special procedure will be applicable. Here the Council acts unanimously after having ‘heard’ the EP. These issues include provisions primarily of a fiscal nature, measures affecting land use planning, and measures significantly affecting a Member State’s choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply (Art 192 (2) TFEU). This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.

In practice, extensive informal contacts between the EP and the Council often take place in order to reach agreement on the preparation of a measure before the Parliament starts its first reading.

Acts adopted according to a legislative procedure are called legislative acts (Art 289 (3) TFEU).

  • [1] As regards the Conciliation Committee, see Art 294(10)—(12) TFEU.
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