Council of the European Union

The Council is the principal decision-making body of the European Union. It meets periodically at ministerial level to

discuss and coordinate political strategies and to adopt legal provisions. The Council of the European Union has its headquarters in Brussels; in April, June and October the meetings are held in Luxembourg.

Configurations of the Council

The Council does not have any permanent members but meets in different configurations depending on the respective subject matter addressed (e.g. foreign affairs, agriculture, financial affairs, environment, etc.) and comprises the ministers whose portfolio includes the relevant topic. The meetings of the Council are chaired by the minister of the EU country holding the EU Presidency at that time. This means that the position of the Presidency at those Council meetings rotates among the Member States every six months. Only the Council meetings for foreign affairs and security policy are permanently chaired by the High Representative of the Union.

Functions

The principal functions of the Council are

  • the legislative authority of the European Union, jointly with the European Parliament;
  • the coordination of the general economic policies of the Member States;
  • the signature of international agreements in areas - like environment, trade, development, fisheries - between the EU and other countries on behalf of the Community;
  • adoption of the annual EU budget, jointly with the European Parliament;
  • adoption of decisions required for the development and implementation of the foreign and security policy based on general guidelines set by the European Council - the Council acting as the major platform for the cooperation between foreign policy and security policy;
  • coordination of the common policies of Member States in the field of police and judicial cooperation.

Decision-making in the Council

The Council takes its decisions with the votes of the ministers of the Member States. Council Decisions are usually taken according to the system of qualified majority. Since 1 November 2014 the qualified majority has no longer been based on Member States’ weighted votes, but has been a system of “double majority”: a majority of the Member States and a majority of the EU population.

Accordingly, a qualified majority is regarded as having been achieved in the process of deciding on a decision proposed by the European Commission or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy the Council if

  • at least 55 % of the members of the Council (i.e. 16 Member States), representing
  • at least 65 % of the total EU population (i.e. at least 328.6 million EU citizens), vote in favour of that decision.

To prevent a decision a least 4 Member States, representing at least 35 % of the total EU population are required (”blocking minority”).

If the Council does not decide on the basis of a proposal by the European Commission or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, at least 72 % of the member states of the Council, representing at least 65 % of the total population, are needed.

published at 16.05.2018, Kommunikation und Service (Abteilung Präs. 5)