Voting in the Council of the European Union

Voting in the Council of the European Union

The procedures for Voting in the Council of the European Union are described in the treaties of the EU. The Council of the European Union was instituted under this name in the Maastricht Treaty. The voting procedures defined there were changed in subsequent treaties (Treaty of Amsterdam, Treaty of Nice and the treaties of accession) to accommodate the growing number of member states in the EU and are currently based on the Treaty of Nice. They are supposed to be superseded by the Treaty of Lisbon.

Voting procedures for decisions not requiring unanimity

Here is an overview of the formerly used, currently used and proposed voting systems employed in the Council of the European Union. The following only applies to certain legislation while others require unanimity among all Council members.When the Council is not acting on a proposal of the Commission, a higher threshold is used to pass legislation.

Treaty of Maastricht (1993-1999)

Treaty of Amsterdam (1999-2003)

Treaty of Nice (current)

:* To pass: Majority of countries (50% or 67%) and votes (74%) and population (62%):* To block: Condition to pass a vote not achieved

This is the currently applicable voting system. According to the procedure, each member state has a fixed number of votes. The number allocated to each country is roughly determined by its population (see table on the right), but progressively weighted in favor of smaller countries. To pass a vote, both of the following conditions must apply to establish qualified majority voting (QMV) – the bloc's key way of decision-making in the absence of a consensus:
* the proposal must be backed by a majority of member states (or two thirds in certain cases: see below);
* the proposal must be supported by 255 votes from a total of 345 — about 73.9% of the votes.Furthermore, a member "may" [Article 3 of the Treaty of Nice, "passim".] request the verification of the population condition (which is then also required for the resolution to be adopted):
* the countries supporting the proposal must represent at least 62% of the total EU population.The population requirement is almost always already implied by the condition on the number of votes. The rare exceptions to this happen in certain cases when a proposal is backed by exactly two of the five most populous member states but not including Germany, that is, two of France, UK, Italy and Spain, and by all or nearly all of the 22 other members.

Furthermore, when the European Council is not acting on a proposal of the Commission, the qualified majority requires backing by "two thirds" (rather than a simple majority) of the member states. [Article 205 of the EC Treaty and Articles 23 and 34 of the EU Treaty.]

Note that mechanisms by which the Commission makes a proposal may not require weighted votes. For example, the Anti-Dumping Advisory Committee (ADAC) can approve a proposal to impose tariffs based on a simple, unweighted majority. Since this simple majority vote leads to a Commission proposal to the Council, the simple majority effectively requires a qualified majority to overturn it (because overturning the recommendation of the ADAC means voting against a Commission proposal). This greatly increases the power of small member states in such circumstances.

The declarations of the conference which adopted the treaty of Nice contained contradictory statements concerning qualified majority voting (QMV) after the enlargement of the European Union to 25 and 27 members: one declaration [Declaration 21 in] specified that the qualifying majority of votes would increase to a maximum of 73.4%, contradicting another declaration [Declaration 20, "ibid".] which specified a qualifying majority of 258 votes (74.78%) after enlargement to 27 countries. But the treaties of accession following the Treaty of Nice clarified the actual required majority.

Treaty of Lisbon (proposed)

:* To pass: Majority of countries (55% or 72%) representing 65% of the population or condition to block not met:* To block: At least 4 countries against the proposal or in cases where, under the Treaties, not all members participate the minimum number of members representing more than 35% of the population of the participating Member States, plus one member are against the proposal

The Constitution envisaged the "double majority" system for the QMV which according to some countries better reflects the true size of populations and at the same time acknowledges the smaller member states' fears of being overruled by the larger countries. The Treaty of Lisbon has adopted this method.The second condition of at least 4 countries against the proposal is to ensure that the most populous Member States cannot block decisions and is important in 10 different voting scenarios where legislation requiring QMV can be passed although the population requirement isn't fulfilled and all member states except:

"Germany and France and one of UK, Italy, Spain or Poland"
"Germany and UK and one of Italy, Spain or Poland"
"Germany and Italy and one of Spain or Poland"
"France and UK and Italy"

are for the proposal. In practice one has to take into account the political likelihood for each minority.

Penrose method (proposed)

:* To pass: Majority of votes (61.4 %):* To block: Condition to pass a vote not achievedPoland proposed the Penrose method (colloquially called the "square root" system) which would narrow the weighting of votes between the largest and smallest countries in terms of population. The Czech Republic supported this method to an extent, but has warned it would not back a Polish veto on this matter. All the other states remained opposed. [cite web | author=James G. Neuger | url= | title= Merkel Sees Snags Over EU Treaty as Poland Holds Firm (Update1) | publisher=Bloomberg | date=18 June 2007 | accessdate=2007-06-26] After previously refusing to discuss the issue, the German government agreed to include it for discussion at the June council. [cite web | author=Renata Goldirova | url= | title=Germany gives ear to Poland in 'Treaty of Lisbon' talks | publisher=EU Observer | date=20 June 2007 | accessdate=2007-06-26] The given percentage is the game theoretical optimal threshold] , and is known as the "Jagiellonian Compromise" [Physics World 2006; 19(3):35-37.] .

Future provisions

One of the key sticking points before the European Council meeting in June 2007 was Poland's demand for a change in the proposed voting system in the Council of the European Union.After hard negotiations the European Summit eventually agreed on a compromise in the early morning of June 23, 2007. According to the compromise, the current Nice treaty voting rules remain in place until 2014. Between 2014 and 2017 a transitional phase is to take place where the new qualified majority voting rules apply (see above), but where the old Nice treaty voting weights can be applied when a member state wishes so. Also from 2014 a new version of the 1994 "Ioannina Compromise" will take effect, which allows small minorities of EU states to call for re-examination of EU decisions they do not like.cite web | author=Honor Mahony | url= | title=EU leaders scrape treaty deal at 11th hour | publisher=EU Observer | date=23 June 2007 | accessdate=2007-06-26]

Decisions requiring unanimity

At present, QMV is used to pass certain legislation while others require unanimity among all Council members. Under the proposed Treaty of Lisbon, which has to be ratified by all member states before it can enter into force, decisions in 54 [cite web | author=(Irish) Department of Foreign Affairs | url= | title= The EU Reform Treaty White Paper | publisher=(Irish) Department of Foreign Affairs | date=9 August 2008 | accessdate=2008-08-09|format=PDF] more policy areas would be taken using QMV, leaving only key, sensitive issues to be decided unanimously (including tax, social policy, defence, foreign policy and treaty revision).

Supporters argue this change will be necessary in order to streamline decision-making and prevent gridlock in a newly enlarged European Union. Others see the change as a loss of sovereignty from individual member states, as it effectively abolishes the national veto in many areas.

ee also

* Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe
* Enlargement of the European Union
* Supermajority
* Voting

External links

* [ Majority Calculator for Council decisions]
* [ A detailed summary of qualified majority voting]
*BBC: [ Background on the voting weights discussion]
* [ Analysis and history of voting weights in the Council]
* [ New winners and old losers. A priori voting power in the EU25]
* [ Article at EUABC]
* [ Full text of the Constitution - Title IV article I-25 ]
* [ Completion of the 5-th enlargement and institutional changes (votes in Council and European Parliament including Bulgaria's and Romania's from 1 Jan 2007)]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries: