Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The EU Institutions 3- The Council of the European Union

3- The Council of the European Union

Also known as the Council of Ministers, primarily responsible for legislative decision-making process. Its composition includes government ministers from each of the twenty-five Member States of the European Union. Its responsibility includes foreign affairs, Meetings at the Council, are attended by ministers responsible for the subject matter under discussion, for instance ministers of transportation attend sessions dealing with transportation, foreign ministers attend the meetings where discussions on foreign policy take place.

The meetings of ministers are conducted once a month or less, however, the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CREPER) meets weekly to coordinate the relevant work and to prepare for the meetings to come. The President of the Council is headed by each Member State on rotation, for a period of six months.

The Council of the European Union is responsible for the adoption of most legislation, after it has been proposed by the Commission and amended by the Parliament. On international agreements involving the EU, the Council has a final word. It oversees the execution of the Common and Security Policy (CFSP). It coordinates the general economic policies of Member States and together with the European Parliament, it forms prepares the budget.

The Council of the European Union issues regulations, which are implemented and binding across the Union, and directives, which do not have the same binding effect, but needed to be acted upon by Member States legislation. It also issues decisions, which have direct effect on individuals, organizations, or Member States, to which they are addressed, and recommendations and opinions, which are not binding.

A qualified majority voting is employed the Council of the European Union for some decisions. Under that rule, a fixed number of votes must gain a minimum of about 71% in order to adopt a resolution. The following voting system is being used:

Country Votes Population

Germany 10 82.0
United Kingdom 10 59.4
France 10 59.1
Italy 10 57.7
Spain 8 39.4
Poland 8 38.6
Netherlands 5 15.8
Greece 5 10.6
Czech Republic 5 10.3
Belgium 5 10.2
Hungary 5 10.0
Portugal 5 9.9
Sweden 4 8.9
Austria 4 8.1
Slovakia 3 5.4
Denmark 3 5.3
Finland 3 5.2
Ireland 3 3.7
Lithuania 3 3.7
Latvia 3 2.4
Slovenia 3 2.0
Estonia 3 1.4
Cyprus 2 0.8
Luxemburg 2 0.4
Malta 2 0.4

Total votes 124

Blocking votes 37

Qualified majority 88

Under The Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which is undergoing ratification by Member States, the qualified majority voting will be simplified. Article 24(1) requires the majority of Member States representing at least three-fifths of the population of the Union. Paragraph 2 of the same Article reads the following:

“When the Constitution does not require the European Council or the Council of Ministers to act on the basis of a proposal of the Commission, or when the European Council or the Council of Ministers is not acting on the initiative of the Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, the required qualified majority shall consist of two thirds of the Member States, representing at least three fifths of the population of the Union.”

The proposal under the new Constitution, takes effect on November 1st, 2009.

Gabriel Sawma

Copyright 2005, Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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