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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Legislative procedure

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Legislative procedure

Four procedures are used for the adoption of Community acts. As a general rule, the Commission tables a proposal, then sends it to the Council so that it can take a decision. Depending on the procedure in question, the Parliament is involved to a greater or lesser extent in the Community decision-making process.

SUMMARY

There are four legislative procedures through which Community acts can be adopted. Each begins with a proposal from the Commission, which the Commission may withdraw at any point before the legislation is finally adopted. Although the Commission has a monopoly in initiating legislation, the Council, European Parliament and Member States can suggest to the Commission that it table a proposal. This procedure is referred to in French as "l'initiative de l'initiative", which can be described as initiating the initiation of legislation. The Commission is not obliged to act on this request and remains the sole institution capable of proposing Community acts.

The four procedures ensure that the European Parliament is involved in the Community decision-making process to a greater or lesser extent.

Codecision procedure

The codecision procedure applies to almost all areas in which the Council votes by qualified majority. For example, Community act are adopted through the codecision procedure in the following areas: free movement of workers, right of establishment, mutual recognition of qualifications, harmonisation of the internal market, job-creation measures, vocational training, transport policy, development cooperation.

The codecision procedure is a complex procedure which can involve up to three readings. At first reading, after the European Parliament has given its opinion, the Council may either adopt the act if it agrees with the Parliament's opinion, or adopt a common position, which it then sends to the Parliament for the second reading.

If the European Parliament approves this common position or does not take a decision within three months, the act is deemed to be adopted in accordance with the common position. If the European Parliament rejects the common position by an absolute majority of its members, the act is deemed not to have been adopted. If the European Parliament amends the common position (by an absolute majority of its members), the text is sent to the Council and the Commission. The Commission gives its opinion on these amendments. Within a period of three months, the Council may:

  • approve all the amendments proposed by the Parliament (by qualified majority, unless the Commission has delivered a negative opinion on certain amendments, in which case, the amendments must be approved unanimously). The act is then deemed to have been adopted;
  • reject certain amendments (by qualified majority): in this case, the President of the Council, in agreement with the European Parliament, convenes the Conciliation Committee (within six weeks). This marks the start of the third reading.

The Conciliation Committee is composed of members of the Council or their representatives and an equal number of representatives of the European Parliament. It is assisted by the Commission. The Conciliation Committee has six weeks in which to approve a joint text (by a qualified majority of members of the Council and by a majority of representatives of the Parliament). The Conciliation Committee may:

  • approve a joint text, in which case the Parliament and the Council have six weeks in which to adopt the act concerned (by an absolute majority of the votes cast in Parliament and by a qualified majority in the Council). If one of the two institutions does not approve the act concerned, it is deemed not to have been adopted;
  • not approve the joint text, in which the act is deemed not to have been adopted and the procedure is halted.

Cooperation procedure

The cooperation procedure is of relatively minor importance because it is used only in the field of economic and monetary policy.

After the European Parliament has delivered an opinion, the Commission adopts a common position, which is then sent to the European Parliament. If the Parliament approves the common position or does not take a decision within three months, the Council adopts the act concerned. If the Parliament rejects the common position, the Council may adopt it, but must do so unanimously. If the Council does not take a decision within three months, the Commission's proposal is deemed not to have been adopted. If the European Parliament amends the common position, the Commission re-examines its proposal. In this case, the Council may:

  • adopt (unanimously) the amendments which the Commission has not incorporated into its re-examined proposal;
  • adopt (by qualified majority) the proposal which has been re-examined by the Commission;
  • amend the proposal which has been re-examined by the Commission, but this must be done unanimously.

If the Council does not take a decision within three months, the Commission's proposal is deemed not to have been adopted.

Consultation procedure

In a certain number of areas, the EC Treaty stipulates that an act may be adopted only after the European Parliament has been consulted. The European Parliament must be consulted, for example, with regard to acts concerning the right to vote and the eligibility of European citizens to take part in local elections and in elections to the European Parliament, implementing rules on State aid, the harmonisation of legislation on certain duties and taxes or the adoption of framework programmes on research and technological development.

The Commission and the Council are not obliged to act in accordance with the opinion of the European Parliament. If the text which was submitted to the Parliament for an opinion subsequently undergoes substantial amendment, the Parliament must be consulted again.

Assent procedure

In a certain number of areas, the EC Treaty stipulates that an act may be adopted only with the consent of the European Parliament. The assent procedure is based on a single reading. The Parliament may accept or reject a proposal but cannot amend it. If assent is not given, the act cannot be adopted.

The assent procedure must be applied in the following areas in particular:

  • the accession of new Member States (Article 49 of the EU Treaty) and the association agreements;
  • citizenship;
  • the specific tasks of the European Central Bank (ECB) and amendments to the Statutes of the European System of Central Banks and of the ECB;
  • the Structural and Cohesion Funds;
  • the procedure for elections to the European Parliament (Article 190 of the EC Treaty);
  • the imposition of sanctions on a Member State for a serious and persistent breach of fundamental rights (Article 7 of the EU Treaty);
  • enhanced cooperation in areas to which the codecision procedure applies.

The Parliament gives its opinion in accordance with the majority of votes cast. It gives its opinion in accordance with the majority of its members only with regard to the electoral procedure and the accession of a new Member State.

Last updated: 03.12.2007

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