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Glossary of summaries

Weighting of votes in the Council

In the case of most EU legislation, the Council of the European Union decides by qualified majority, i.e. the ordinary legislative procedure. In some areas of EU legislation, the Council acts by unanimity. Furthermore, procedural decisions are taken by a simple majority (15 out of 28 EU countries in favour).

Until 1  November 2014, the EU countries with the largest populations had 27 to 29 votes, medium-sized countries seven to 14 votes and small countries three or four votes. A decision required at least 260 out of 352 votes to be adopted.

On 1  November 2014, the rules for establishing a qualified majority changed (Article 16  of the Treaty on European Union). For a proposal by the Commission or the EU's High Representative to be adopted, a qualified majority is reached if two conditions are met:

  1. 55  % of the members of the Council vote in favour (i.e. 16 out of 28); and
  2. the members of the Council voting in favour represent EU countries representing at least 65  % of the total EU population.

This is known as the ‘double majority’ rule. A blocking minority must include at least four EU countries.

When the Council votes on a proposal not coming from the Commission or the High Representative a decision is adopted when:

  • at least 72  % of Council members vote in favour and
  • they represent at least 65  % of the EU population.

Until  31 March 2017, EU countries may still request a vote using the previous rule for qualified majority voting. In addition, they may request the application of the ‘Ioannina II compromise’ (see Declaration No  7 annexed to the Lisbon Treaty). This allows a group of countries to demonstrate their opposition to a text even if the group is not large enough in number to constitute a blocking minority.