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Council of the European Union
""Coat of arms or logo
Leadership
"Estonia Estonia
Since 1 July 2017
"Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen
Since 1 July 2015
Structure
Seats 28 (varying representatives of 28 states)
Political groups
No official division by political parties
Elections
"Qualified majority or unanimity
Meeting place
"Europa building: "Brussels, Belgium
Website
consilium.europa.eu

The Council of the European Union (often still referred to as the Council of Ministers, or sometimes just called the Council ("Latin: Consilium) is the third of the seven "institutions of the European Union (EU) as listed in the "Treaty on European Union.[1] It is part of the essentially "bicameral "EU legislature (the other legislative body being the "European Parliament) and represents the "executive governments of the "EU's member states.[2] It is based in the "Europa building in Brussels.[3]

Contents

Composition[edit]

The Council meets in 10 different configurations of 28 "national ministers (one per "state). The precise membership of these configurations varies according to the topic under consideration; for example, when discussing "agricultural policy the Council is formed by the 28 national ministers whose portfolio includes this policy area (with the related "European Commissioners contributing but not voting).

The "Presidency of the Council rotates every six months among the governments of EU member states, with the relevant ministers of the respective country holding the Presidency at any given time ensuring the smooth running of the meetings and setting the daily agenda.[4] The continuity between presidencies is provided by an arrangement under which three successive presidencies, known as Presidency trios, share common political programmes. The "Foreign Affairs Council (national foreign ministers) is however chaired by the Union's "High Representative.[5]

Its decisions are made by "qualified majority voting in most areas, unanimity in others, or just simple majority for procedural issues. Usually where it operates unanimously, it only needs to consult the Parliament. However, in most areas the "ordinary legislative procedure applies meaning both Council and Parliament share legislative and budgetary powers equally, meaning both have to agree for a proposal to pass. In a few limited areas the Council may initiate new "EU law itself.[4]

The "General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, also known as Council Secretariat, assists the Council of the European Union, the "Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the "European Council and the "President of the European Council. The Secretariat is headed by the "Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union. The Secretariat is divided into seven "directorates-general, each administered by a "director-general.

History[edit]

"European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of a series on the
"politics and government
of the European Union

The Council first appeared in the "European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) as the "Special Council of Ministers", set up to counterbalance the High Authority (the supranational executive, now the Commission). The original Council had limited powers: issues relating only to coal and steel were in the Authority's domain, and the Council's consent was only required on decisions outside coal and steel. As a whole, the Council only scrutinised the "High Authority (the executive). In 1957, the "Treaties of Rome established two new communities, and with them two new Councils: the Council of the "European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) and the Council of the "European Economic Community (EEC). However, due to objections over the supranational power of the Authority, their Councils had more powers; the new executive bodies were known as "Commissions".[6]

In 1965 the Council was hit by the "empty chair crisis". Due to disagreements between "French President "Charles de Gaulle and the Commission's agriculture proposals, among other things, France boycotted all meetings of the Council. This halted the Council's work until the impasse was resolved the following year by the "Luxembourg compromise. Although initiated by a gamble of the President of the Commission, "Walter Hallstein, who later on lost the Presidency, the crisis exposed flaws in the Council's workings.[7]

Under the "Merger Treaty of 1967, the ECSC's Special Council of Ministers and the Council of the EAEC (together with their other independent institutions) were merged into the Council of the EEC, which would act as a single Council of the "European Communities. In 1993, the Council adopted the name 'Council of the European Union', following the establishment of the European Union by the "Maastricht Treaty. That treaty strengthened the Council, with the addition of more intergovernmental elements in the "three pillars system. However, at the same time the Parliament and Commission had been strengthened inside the "Community pillar, curtailing the ability of the Council to act independently.[6]

The "Treaty of Lisbon abolished the pillar system and gave further powers to Parliament. It also merged the Council's "High Representative with the "Commission's foreign policy head, with this new figure chairing the foreign affairs Council rather than the rotating presidency. The "European Council was declared a separate institution from the Council, also chaired by a permanent president, and the different Council configurations were mentioned in the treaties for the first time.[5]

The development of the Council has been characterised by the rise in power of the Parliament, with which the Council has had to share its legislative powers. The Parliament has often provided opposition to the Council's wishes. This has in some cases led to clashes between both bodies with the Council's system of intergovernmentalism contradicting the developing parliamentary system and supranational principles.[8]

Powers and functions[edit]

The primary purpose of the Council is to act as one of the two chambers of the "EU's legislative branch, the other chamber being the "European Parliament. It also holds, jointly with the Parliament, the budgetary power of the Union and has greater control than the Parliament over the more intergovernmental areas of the EU, such as foreign policy and macroeconnomic co-ordination. Finally, before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, it formally held the executive power of the EU which it conferred upon the "European Commission.[2][9]

Legislative procedure[edit]

""
""
Simplified illustration of the voting rules that apply within the ordinary legislative procedure. The actual procedure involves various stages of consultations aimed at achieving compromise between the positions of the two legislative chambers.

The EU's legislative authority is divided between the Council and the Parliament. As the relationships and powers of these institutions have developed, various legislative procedures have been created for adopting laws.[2] In early times, the avis facultatif maxim was: "The Commission proposes, and the Council disposes";[10] but now the vast majority of laws are now subject to the "ordinary legislative procedure, which works on the principle that consent from both the Council and Parliament are required before a law may be adopted.[11]

Under this procedure, the Commission presents a proposal to Parliament and the Council. Following its first "reading the Parliament may propose amendments. If the Council accepts these amendments then the legislation is approved. If it does not then it adopts a "common position" and submits that new version to the Parliament. At its second reading, if the Parliament approves the text or does not act, the text is adopted, otherwise the Parliament may propose further amendments to the Council's proposal. It may be rejected out right by an "absolute majority of MEPs. If the Council still does not approve the Parliament's position, then the text is taken to a "Conciliation Committee" composed of the Council members plus an equal number of MEPs. If a Committee manages to adopt a joint text, it then has to be approved in a third reading by both the Council and Parliament or the proposal is abandoned.[12]

The few other areas that operate the special legislative procedures are justice & home affairs, budget and taxation and certain aspects of other policy areas: such as the fiscal aspects of environmental policy. In these areas, the Council or Parliament decide law alone.[13][14] The procedure used also depends upon which type of "institutional act is being used. The strongest act is a "regulation, an "act or "law which is directly applicable in its entirety. Then there are "directives which bind members to certain goals which they must achieve, but they do this through their own laws and hence have room to manoeuvre in deciding upon them. A "decision is an instrument which is focused at a particular person or group and is directly applicable. Institutions may also issue "recommendations and opinions which are merely non-binding declarations.[15]

The Council votes in one of three ways; "unanimity, "simple majority, or "qualified majority. In most cases, the Council votes on issues by "qualified majority voting, meaning that there must be a minimum of 55% of member states agreeing (at least 15) who together represent at least 65% of the EU population.[16] A 'blocking minority' can only be formed by at least 4 member states representing at least 35% of the EU population.

Foreign affairs[edit]

The legal instruments used by the Council for the "Common Foreign and Security Policy are different from the legislative acts. Under the CFSP they consist of "common positions", "joint actions", and "common strategies". Common positions relate to defining a European foreign policy towards a particular third-country such as the promotion of human rights and democracy in "Myanmar, a region such as the stabilisation efforts in the "African Great Lakes, or a certain issue such as support for the "International Criminal Court. A common position, once agreed, is binding on all EU states who must follow and defend the policy, which is regularly revised. A joint action refers to a co-ordinated action of the states to deploy resources to achieve an objective, for example for mine clearing or to combat the spread of "small arms. Common strategies defined an objective and commits the EUs resources to that task for four years.[17]

Budgetary authority[edit]

Furthermore, the legislative branch officially holds the Union's budgetary authority. The "EU's budget (which is around 155 billion "euro)[18] is subject to a form of the ordinary legislative procedure with a single reading giving Parliament power over the entire budget (prior to 2009, its influence was limited to certain areas) on an equal footing to the Council. If there is a disagreement between them, it is taken to a conciliation committee as it is for legislative proposals. But if the joint conciliation text is not approved, the Parliament may adopt the budget definitively.[13] In addition to the budget, the Council coordinates the economic policy of members.[4]

Organisation[edit]

The Council's rules of procedure contain the provisions necessary for its organisation and functioning.[19]

Presidency[edit]

The Presidency of the Council is not a single post, but is held by a member state's government. Every six months the presidency rotates between the states, in an order predefined by the Council's members, allowing each state to preside over the body. From 2007, every three member states co-operate for their combined eighteen months on a common agenda, although only one formally holds the presidency for the normal six-month period. For example, the President for the second half of 2007, Portugal, was the second in a trio of states alongside Germany and "Slovenia with whom Portugal had been co-operating. The Council meets in various configurations (as outlined below) so its membership changes depending upon the issue. The person chairing the Council will always be the member from the state holding the Presidency. A delegate from the following Presidency also assists the presiding member and may take over work if requested.[20][21] The exception however is the foreign affairs council, which has been chaired by the "High Representative since the entry into force of the "Lisbon Treaty.[5]

The role of the Presidency is administrative and political. On the administrative side it is responsible for procedures and organising the work of the Council during its term. This includes summoning the Council for meetings along with directing the work of "COREPER and other committees and working groups. The political element is the role of successfully dealing with issues and mediating in the Council. In particular this includes setting the agenda of the council, hence giving the Presidency substantial influence in the work of the Council during its term. The Presidency also plays a major role in representing the Council within the EU and representing the EU internationally, for example at the United Nations.[21][22][23]

Configurations[edit]

Legally speaking, the Council is a single entity (this means that technically any Council configuration can adopt decisions that fall within the remit of any other Council configuration)[24] but it is in practice divided into several different council configurations (or ‘(con)formations’). Article 16(6) of the "Treaty on European Union provides:

The Council shall meet in different configurations, the list of which shall be adopted in accordance with Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different Council configurations. It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the Commission.

The Foreign Affairs Council shall elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensure that the Union's action is consistent.

Each council configuration deals with a different functional area, for example agriculture and fisheries. In this formation, the council is composed of ministers from each state government who are responsible for this area: the agriculture and fisheries ministers. The "chair of this council is held by the member from the state holding the presidency (see section above). Similarly, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council is composed of national finance ministers, and they are still one per state and the chair is held by the member coming from the presiding country. The Councils meet irregularly throughout the year except for the three major configurations (top three below) which meet once a month. There are currently ten formations:[25][26]

""
""
Until 2017, the main meeting room of the Council was in the "Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, seen here.

Complementing these, the Political and Security Committee (PSC) brings together ambassadors to monitor international situations and define policies within the CSDP, particularly in crises.[26] The "European Council is similar to a configuration of the Council, it operates in a similar way and but is composed of the national leaders ("heads of government "or state) and has its own President,[33] currently "Donald Tusk. The body's purpose is to define the general "impetus" of the Union.[34] The European Council deals with the major issues such as the appointment of the "President of the European Commission who takes part in the body's meetings.[35]

"Ecofin's Eurozone component, the "Euro group, is also a formal group with its own President.[28] Its European Council counterpart is the "Euro summit formalized in 2011[36] and the "TSCG.

Following the entry into force of a framework agreement between the EU and "ESA there is a Space Council configuration—a joint and concomitant meeting of the EU Council and of the ESA Council at ministerial level dealing with the implementation of the "ESP adopted by both organisations.[37][38]

Administration[edit]

""
""
Pre-2014 emblem of the Council of the European Union

The "General Secretariat of the Council provides the continuous infrastructure of the Council, carrying out preparation for meetings, draft reports, translation, records, documents, agendas and assisting the presidency.[39] The "Secretary General of the Council is head of the Secretariat. The Secretariat is divided into seven directorates-general, each administered by a director-general.

The "Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) is a body composed of representatives from the states (ambassadors, civil servants etc.) who meet each week to prepare the work and tasks of the Council. It monitors and co-ordinates work and deals with the Parliament on co-decision legislation.[40] It is divided into two groups of the representatives (Coreper II) and their deputies (Coreper I). Agriculture is dealt with separately by the "Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA). The numerous working groups submit their reports to the Council through Coreper or SCA.[26]

Voting system[edit]

The "Treaty of Lisbon mandates a change in voting system from 1 November 2014 for most cases to double majority "Qualified Majority Voting, replacing the voting weights system. Decisions made by the council have to be taken by 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU's population.[5]

State Governing parties EU party Population Cabinet
 "Germany "Christian Democratic Union of Germany
"Social Democratic Party of Germany
"Christian Social Union in Bavaria
"EPP
"PES
"EPP
82,064,489 "Merkel III
 "France "Socialist Party
"The Republicans
"Forward!
"Democratic Movement
"PES
"EPP
None
"EDP
66,661,621 "Philippe II
 "United Kingdom "Conservative Party "ACRE 65,341,183 "May II
 "Italy "Democratic Party
"Popular Alternative
"Union of the Centre
"PES
"EPP
"EPP
61,302,519 "Gentiloni
 "Spain "People's Party "EPP 46,438,422 "Rajoy II
 "Poland "Law and Justice
"United Poland
"Poland Together United Right
"ACRE
"MELD
None
37,967,209 "Szydło
 "Romania "Social Democratic Party
"Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
"PES
"ALDE Party
19,759,968 "Tudose
 "Netherlands "People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
"Labour Party
"ALDE Party
"PES
17,235,349 "Rutte II
 "Belgium "Reformist Movement
"New Flemish Alliance
"Christian Democratic and Flemish
"Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats
"ALDE Party
"EFA
"EPP
"ALDE Party
11,289,853 "Michel
 "Greece "Coalition of the Radical Left
"Independent Greeks
"European Left
None
10,793,526 "Tsipras II
 "Czech Republic "Czech Social Democratic Party
"ANO 2011
"Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party
"PES
"ALDE Party
"EPP
10,445,783 "Sobotka
 "Portugal "Socialist Party "PES 10,341,330 "Costa
 "Sweden "Social Democratic Workers' Party of Sweden
"Environment Party – the Greens
"PES
"EGP
9,998,000 "Löfven
 "Hungary "Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance
"Christian Democratic People's Party
"EPP
"EPP
9,830,485 "Orbán III
 "Austria "Social Democratic Party of Austria
"Austrian People's Party
"PES
"EPP
8,711,500 "Kern
 "Bulgaria "GERB
"IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement
"National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria
"EPP
None
None
7,153,784 "Borisov III
 "Denmark "Left, Denmark's Liberal Party
"Liberal Alliance
"Conservative People's Party
"ALDE Party
None
"EPP
5,700,917 "Løkke Rasmussen III
 "Finland "Finnish Centre Party
"National Coalition Party
"ALDE Party
"EPP
5,465,408 "Sipilä
 "Slovakia "Direction – Social Democracy
"Bridge
"PES
"EPP
5,407,910 "Fico III
 "Ireland "Fine Gael "EPP 4,664,156 "Varadkar
 "Croatia "Croatian Democratic Union
"Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats
"EPP
"ALDE Party
4,190,669 "Plenković
 "Lithuania "Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union
"Social Democratic Party of Lithuania
None
"PES
2,888,558 "Skvernelis
 "Slovenia "Party of Modern Center
"Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia
"Social Democrats
"ALDE Party
None
"PES
2,064,188 "Cerar
 "Latvia "Unity
"National Alliance "All For Latvia!" – "For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK"
"Latvian Green Party
"Centre Party Latvian Farmers' Union
"For Latvia and Ventspils
"Liepāja Party
"EPP
"ACRE
"EGP
None
None
None
1,968,957 "Kučinskis
 "Estonia "Estonian Centre Party
"Social Democratic Party
"Pro Patria and Res Publica Union
"ALDE Party
"PES
"EPP
1,315,944 "Ratas
 "Cyprus "Democratic Rally "EPP 848,319 "Anastasiades
 "Luxembourg "Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party
"Democratic Party
"The Greens
"PES
"ALDE Party
"EGP
576,249 "Bettel
 "Malta "Labour Party "PES 434,403 "Muscat II

Almost all members of the Council are members of a political party at national level, and most of these are members of a "European-level political party. However the Council is composed to represent the EU's states rather than political parties[4] and the nature of coalition governments in a number of states means that individual configurations would vary on which domestic party was assigned the portfolio. However the broad ideological alignment of each state does have a bearing on the nature of the law the Council produces and the extent to which the link between domestic parties puts pressure on the members in the European Parliament to vote a certain way.

Member State Dominant "Europarty Additional Europarties
"Austria PES EPP
"Belgium ALDE EFA EPP
"Bulgaria EPP NI
"Croatia EPP ALDE
"Cyprus EPP
"Czech Republic PES ALDE EPP
"Denmark ALDE NI EPP
"Estonia ALDE PES EPP
"Finland ALDE EPP
"France EPP PES NI EDP
"Germany EPP PES
"Greece EL NI
"Hungary EPP
"Ireland EPP NI
"Italy PES EPP
"Latvia NI EPP ACRE EGP
"Lithuania NI PES
"Luxembourg ALDE PES EGP
"Malta PES
"Netherlands ALDE PES
"Poland ACRE MELD NI
"Portugal PES
"Romania PES ALDE
"Slovenia ALDE NI PES
"Slovakia PES EPP
"Spain EPP
"Sweden PES EGP
"United Kingdom ACRE
ACRE "Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe
ADDE "Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe
ALDE "Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
EDP "European Democratic Party
EFA "European Free Alliance
EGP "European Green Party
EL "Party of the European Left
EPP "European People's Party
MELD "Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy
NI "Non-Attached
PES "Party of European Socialists

The dominant Europarty is the one holding the member state’s seat in the "European Council.

Additional Europarties are the ones which also sit in (some configurations of) the Council of the European Union.


Location[edit]

By a decision of the European Council at Edinburgh in December 1992, the Council has its seat in Brussels but in April, June, and October, it holds its meetings in Luxembourg.[41] Between 1952 and 1967 the ECSC Council held its Luxembourg meetings in the Cercle Municipal on Place d’Armes. Its secretariat moved on numerous occasions but between 1955 and 1967 it was housed in the Verlorenkost district of the city. In 1957 with the creation of two new Communities with their own Councils, discretion on location was given to the current President. In practice this was to be in the "Château of Val-Duchesse until the autumn of 1958, at which point it moved to 2 Rue Ravensteinstraat in Brussels.[42]

The 1965 agreement (finalised by the Edinburgh agreement and annexed to the treaties) on the location of the newly merged institutions, the Council was to be in Brussels but would meet in Luxembourg during April, June, and October. The ECSC secretariat moved from Luxembourg to the merged body Council secretariat in the Ravenstein building of Brussels. In 1971 the Council and its secretariat moved into the "Charlemagne building, next to the Commission's "Berlaymont, but the Council rapidly ran out of space and administrative branch of the Secretariat moved to a building at 76 Rue Joseph II/Jozef II-straat and during the 1980s the language divisions moved out into the Nerviens, Frère Orban, and Guimard buildings.[42]

In 1995 the Council moved into the "Justus Lipsius building, across the road from Charlemagne. However, its staff was still increasing, so it continued to rent the Frère Orban building to house the Finnish and Swedish language divisions. Staff continued to increase and the Council rented, in addition to owning Justus Lipsius, the Kortenberg, Froissart, Espace Rolin, and Woluwe Heights buildings. Since acquiring the "Lex building in 2008, the three aforementioned buildings are no longer in use by the Council services.

When the Council is meeting in Luxembourg, it meets in the Kirchberg Conference Centre[42] and its offices are based at the European Centre on the plateau du Kirchberg.[26] The Council has also met occasionally in Strasbourg, in various other cities, and also outside the Union: for example in 1974 when it met in Tokyo and Washington while trade and energy talks were taking place. Under the Council's present rules of procedures the Council can, in extraordinary circumstances, hold one of its meetings outside Brussels and Luxembourg.[42]

From 2017, both the Council of the European Union and the "European Council adopted the purpose built "Europa building as their official headquarters, although they continue to utilise the facilities afforded by the adjacent "Justus Lipsius building. The focal point of the new building, the distinctive multi-storey "lantern" shaped structure in which the main meeting room is located, is utilised in both EU institutions' new official logos.[3][43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

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