Rules of procedure of the Council of the European Union
Decision 2009/937/EU adopting the Council’s rules of procedure
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE RULES OF PROCEDURE?
The rules of procedure lay down provisions governing the proceedings of the Council of the European Union (the Council).
The power to adopt rules of procedure is conferred upon the Council by Article 240(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Annex III is amended each year, most recently in December 2022, in order to reflect the changes in population of European Union (EU) Member States and the population of each Member State for implementing the procedure for qualified majority voting in the Council.
The rules of procedure have also been more substantially amended twice – in 2014 (Decision 2014/692/EU, Euratom), with regard to votes by qualified majority, and in 2022 (Decision (EU) 2022/1242), with regard to the voting rule for decisions by the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States (Coreper) to use the ordinary written procedure.
The Council is the EU institution where the representatives of the Member States meet. Each Member State is represented by one representative at ministerial level who may commit the government of that country. Together with the European Parliament, the Council exercises legislative functions. It adopts legislative acts, following the ordinary or special legislative procedure. The Council, jointly with the Parliament, exercises budgetary functions. Finally, the Council performs policymaking and coordinating functions.
The Council configurations
The Council meets in 10 different configurations according to the subject matter dealt with.
Except for two configurations (General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council), the mandate of each configuration is not determined by the treaties and follows from practice.
The presidency of the Council
The presidency of the Council, with the exception of the foreign affairs configuration, is held by pre-established groups of three Member States for a period of 18 months. Each member of the group chairs all Council configurations, with the exception of the foreign affairs configuration, for 6 months. The group of three Member States prepares a draft programme of Council activities for an 18-month period, which is endorsed by the General Affairs Council after holding a public debate on it.
The Foreign Affairs Council has a permanent chairperson: the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It is possible for the High Representative to be replaced by the Member State holding the Council presidency. It is normally the case when the Council is convened to discuss common commercial policy issues.
The presidency is the driving force in carrying out the Council’s work.
Coreper, committees and working parties
The Council is supported by Coreper and by over 150 specialised working groups and committees, which are the preparatory bodies of the Council.
Coreper prepares the work of all the meetings of the Council and carries out the tasks assigned to it by the Council. Coreper 2 is composed of permanent representatives, while Coreper 1 is composed of deputy permanent representatives.
- ensures consistency of the EU’s policies and actions and the observance of the principles of legality, subsidiarity, proportionality, and of the rules establishing the powers of EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, along with the rules on procedure, transparency and the quality of drafting;
- examines in advance all the items on the agenda for a Council meeting and is responsible for the preparation of each file for the Council;
- endeavours to reach an agreement for each file at its level, which is then submitted to the Council;
- may set up committees or working groups to carry out preparatory tasks or studies;
- may adopt a number of procedural decisions, such as the decision to hold a Council meeting in a place other than Brussels or Luxembourg, the decision to use a written procedure, etc.
Functioning of the Council
The Council has its seat in Brussels, but holds its meetings in Luxembourg in April, June and October.
Sessions of the Council are convened by the president, on its own initiative or at the request of one of its members or of the European Commission. The president sets the provisional agenda for each Council meeting.
The quorum must be checked before a vote is taken. This is reached if the majority of members of the Council are physically present. The Council votes on the initiative of its president. Furthermore, the president opens 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.
Qualified majority voting
On 1 November 2014, a new procedure for qualified majority voting, the double majority rule, was introduced.
When the Council votes on a proposal by the Commission or the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a qualified majority is reached if two conditions are met:
- 55% of the members of the Council vote in favour – i.e. 15 out of 27 (since the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU);
- the proposal is supported by the members of the Council representing at least 65% of the EU population.
When the Council does not act on a proposal by the Commission or the High Representative, a decision is adopted if:
- there are 72% of the members of the Council voting in favour; and
- they represent at least 65% of the EU population.
Written votes (ordinary written procedure)
Council acts on an urgent matter may be adopted by a written vote where the Council unanimously decides to use that procedure or where Coreper decides to use that procedure in accordance with the voting rule applicable for the adoption of the Council acts concerned.
In special circumstances, the president may also propose the use of that procedure; in such a case, written votes may be used where all members of the Council agree to that procedure.
Transparency and publication of Council acts
The deliberations and votes on legislative acts are open to the public.
The Council’s first deliberation on important new non-legislative proposals containing legally binding rules in or for Member States is open to the public.
On a decision taken by the Council or by Coreper, the Council holds public debates on important issues affecting the interests of the EU and its citizens. The Council also holds a number of policy debates in public.
Legislative acts must be published in the Official Journal, as must regulations and directives, which are addressed to all Member States, decisions, which do not specify to whom they are addressed, and international agreements concluded by the EU. Article 17 of the Rules of Procedure lists other acts to be published in the Official Journal, including when the Council or Coreper so decides.
FROM WHEN DO THE RULES OF PROCEDURE APPLY?
They have applied since 1 December 2009.
For further information, see:
Council Decision 2009/937/EU of 1 December 2009 adopting the Council’s Rules of Procedure (OJ L 325, 11.12.2009, pp. 35–61).
Successive amendments to Decision 2009/937/EU have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
last update 01.01.2023