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Rules of procedure of the Council of the European Union

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Rules of procedure of the Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (EU) is the institution where the various EU member states meet. Each Member State is represented by one representative at ministerial level. The Council, along with the European Parliament, regularly adopts legislative acts and coordinates policies. The Council meets in different configurations depending on the issue in hand.

ACT

Council Decision 2009/937/EU of 1 December 2009 adopting the Council's Rules of Procedure [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

These rules of procedure concern the functioning and organisation of the Council of the EU (the Council), which is granted the power to adopt its own internal regulations by Article 240(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Council configurations

The Council meets in different configurations according to the subject matter dealt with. Each configuration consists of a ministry representative from each Member State, who is empowered to commit his/her government. The list of configurations other than those relating to general and foreign affairs is set by a European Council decision. Pending such a decision, the General Affairs Council in its Decision 2009/878/EU established the following list of ten configurations:

  • General Affairs;
  • Foreign Affairs;
  • Economic and Financial Affairs (including the budget);
  • Justice and Home Affairs (including civil protection);
  • Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs;
  • Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space);
  • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy;
  • Agriculture and Fisheries;
  • Environment;
  • Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (including audiovisual services).

It is for each Member State to determine the way in which it is represented in the Council. Several Ministers may participate as full members of the same Council configuration.

The General Affairs Council

The General Affairs Council essentially serves the Ministers for European Affairs of all EU Member States. It meets once a month and shall:

  • ensure coordination of and consistency in the work of the different Council configurations;
  • prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council.

In addition, the General Affairs Council establishes the multiannual financial framework of the EU (the EU budget for seven years, which provides funding for all programs and activities), oversees the EU enlargement process and accession negotiations, and addresses issues related to the institutional structure of the EU.

Other Council configurations shall forward to the General Affairs Council their contributions for the European Council, at the latest two weeks before the meeting of the latter.

The Foreign Affairs Council

The Foreign Affairs Council is responsible for:

  • Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP);
  • European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP);
  • Common Commercial Policy (CCP);
  • development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

The Presidency of the Council of the EU

The Foreign Affairs council is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. All other Council meetings are chaired by the relevant minister of the country holding the rotating EU presidency.

The presidency is the driving force in carrying out the Council's work and must present a draft programme of Council activities. The draft must then be approved by the General Affairs Council. The Presidency must also draw up the provisional agenda for the meetings scheduled during its term of office.

The Presidency also ensures that the internal rules of procedure are properly applied and that discussions are conducted in a businesslike manner. It can also represent the Council before the European Parliament.

Coreper, committees and working parties

Coreper, the committee of the permanent representatives of each Member State (Coreper 2) or their deputies (Coreper 1), is responsible for preparing the work of the Council sessions and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the Council. It is chaired by the representative of the Member State which holds the Presidency of the Council. It ensures the consistency of the EU's policies and actions and sees to it that the following principles and rules are observed:

  • the principles of legality, subsidiarity, proportionality and providing reasons for acts;
  • the rules establishing the powers of Union institutions and bodies;
  • the budgetary provisions;
  • the rules on procedure, transparency and the quality of drafting.

Coreper:

  • must examine in advance all the items on the agenda for a Council meeting. It must endeavour to reach an agreement, which is then submitted to the Council for adoption. If an agreement is reached, the item is included in Part A of the agenda for approval by the Council without discussion;
  • may set up committees or working groups to carry out preparatory tasks or studies.

The General Secretariat

The General Secretariat assists in organising, coordinating, monitoring and ensuring the coherence of the Council's work, as well as in implementing its programme of activities. It is placed under the responsibility of the Secretary-General, appointed by the Council acting by qualified majority. The Secretary-General also draws up the draft estimate of the Council's expenditure and administers its appropriations.

Functioning of the Council

The Council meets when convened by its President. The dates for meetings are made known by the Presidency seven months before the beginning of its term of office. The Council has its seat in Brussels, but holds its meetings in Luxembourg in April, June and October. Meetings can be held elsewhere by a unanimous decision of the Council or of Coreper.

The provisional agenda for each meeting is drawn up by the President. The final agenda is adopted by the Council at the beginning of the meeting. It is divided into two parts: legislative deliberations and non-legislative activities. It is also sub-divided into Part A and Part B, with Part A containing the items for which approval by the Council is possible without discussion.

The quorum must be checked before a vote is taken. It requires the presence of a majority of members. The Council votes on the initiative of its President. The President shall, furthermore, be required to open a voting procedure on the initiative of a member of the Council or of the Commission, provided that a majority of the Council's members so decides.

Until 31 October 2014, when a decision is to be adopted by the Council by a qualified majority, and if a member of the Council so requests, it shall be verified that the Member States constituting the qualified majority represent at least 62 % of the total population of the European Union.

Acts of the Council on urgent matters may be adopted by a written vote. It is for the Council or Coreper to decide unanimously to use that procedure. The President may also propose it if all the members of the Council agree.

Publicity for the Council’s proceedings, publication and notification of acts

The Council's deliberations are public when it makes a decision on a draft legislative act, hence the distinction between the legislative and non-legislative parts of the agenda. The opening to the public of Council meetings relating to the Legislative deliberations part of its agenda shall be made through public transmission by audiovisual means.

The Council must also meet in public for certain types of deliberations:

  • the public policy debate on the Council’s programme of activities;
  • policy debates held by the other Council configurations on their priorities;
  • the Commission's presentation of its five-year programme, its annual work programme and its annual policy strategy;
  • debates on important issues affecting the interests of the EU and its citizens, if the Council or Coreper so decide by a qualified majority;
  • certain non-legislative proposals judged by the Presidency to be of sufficient importance as long as the Council and Coreper agree.

Where the Council adopts non-legislative acts, the results of votes and explanations of votes by Council members shall be made public.

Legislative acts adopted by the Council must be published in the Official Journal (OJ), as must international agreements concluded by the Union. For other types of acts, it is for the Council or Coreper to decide whether or not to publish them.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2009/937/EU

1.12.2009

-

OJ L 325 of 11.12.2009

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2010/594/EU

16.9.2010

-

OJ L 263 of 6.10.2010

Decision 2010/795/EU

23.12.2010

-

OJ L 338 of 22.12.2010

Decision 2011/900/EU

31.12.2011

-

OJ L 346 of 30.12.2011

Decision 2013/746/EU

12.12.2013

-

OJ L 333 of 12.12.2013

RELATED ACTS

Council Decision 2013/488/EU of 23 September 2013 on the security rules for protecting EU classified information [Official Journal L 274 of 15.10.2013].

In order to develop Council activities in all areas which require handling classified information, it is appropriate to establish a comprehensive security system for protecting classified information covering the Council, its General Secretariat and the Member States. This Decision should apply where the Council, its preparatory bodies and the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC) handle EU classified information (EUCI).

Last updated: 20.06.2014

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