COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Council (in French, Counseil de l’Union europénne) is the EU main decision-making body; it consists of the Member States meeting at ministerial level (article 237-243 TCE, former articles 210-210 and 150 … 154). The Council meets according to the subject being discussed and for reasons relating to the organisation of its work, it meets in different “configurations”, which are attended by the Ministers of the Member States and the European Commissioners responsible for the areas concerned. Each Member State sends a representative authorised to act on behalf of their own State, which is normally responsible for the issue on the agenda. Its composition depends on which subjects are on the agenda and there are no permanent members. In the 1990s, there were 22 configurations; the configurations were reduced to 16 in June 2000 and further reduced to 10 in June 2009, with the Treaty of Lisbon. At present, they are: General Affairs and External Relations, Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs, Transport, Telecommunications and Energy, Agriculture and Fisheries, Environment, Education, Youth and Culture. The Council is located in Brussels, where it meets several times each month (meetings are held in Luxembourg only in April, June and October). Council decisions are prepared by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), which meets once a week. The Committee coordinates and oversees the work of numerous committees and working groups, and instructs the dossier to be submitted to COREPER and the Council. Nevertheless, the SCA prepares the work of the Agriculture Council and its first meeting took place in 1960.
In a great majority of cases, the Council takes decisions on a proposal from the European Commission and in association (ordinary legislative procedure) with the European Parliament (justice, security, immigration, budget and international treaties), through a Parliamentary consultation process (agriculture, taxation and industrial policy). The voting rules of the Council are, according to the subjects: simple majority (for procedural decisions), qualified majority voting (a system called “double majority” designed to reflect the double legitimation of the Union, a Union made of States and citizens, adopted for several decisions in areas related to the internal market as well as in the areas of security, areas of safety, asylum and immigration, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal police cooperation), or unanimity (in the areas of foreign policy, defence, taxation). Since 1 January 2007, the distribution of votes between the Member States is as follows: Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom: 29; Spain and Poland: 27; Romania: 14; the Netherlands: 13; Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Portugal: 12; Austria, Bulgaria and Sweden: 10; Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Finland: 7; Malta:3; for a total of 345.
As sanctioned by Article 16, par. 4 TEU, as of 1 November 2014, a qualified majority is achieved if at least 55% of the Council members (representing 65% of the population of the Union) approve the proposal. Therefore, a blocking minority in the legislative proposal must include at least four Council members. Otherwise, the qualified majority shall be deemed attained. As an exception to this rule, in cases where the Council does not act on a proposal of the Commission or of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72% of the members of the Council representing Member States comprising at least 65% of the population of these States.
© 2011 ASSONEBB