Decision-making procedures in the European Union - EU monitor

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Saturday, November 23, 2019
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Decision making in the European Union takes places by means of various legislative procedures. The ordinary legislative procedure is the default procedure. When the Treaties indicate otherwise one of the special legislative procedures is used. Secondary legislation is decided upon by means of a seperate set of special procedures.

1.

The ordinary legislative procedure

  • Ordinary legislative procedure

    This procedure is the standard decision-making procedure used in the European Union, unless the treaties specifically state one of the special legislative procedures is to be applied to a particular subject. Before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force late 2009 it was referred to as the co-decision procedure. The essential characteristic of this procedure is that both the Council of Ministers as well as the European Parliament have a deciding vote in the legislative process, and both institutions may amend a proposal.

2.

Special legislative procedures

The EU uses a wide variety of special legislative procedures. Such procedures are only used when the Treaties explicitly refer one these procedure is to be used for a particular policy area or subject.

  • Agreement procedure

    The consent procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the European Union. The consent procedure is used for adopting most international agreements. The word consent refers to the role the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of Ministers (Council) play in the procedure. Both can either approve or disapprove a proposal, but neither can amend it.

  • Assent procedure

    This procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the European Union. The assent procedure is used for several very important decisions, as well as for matters where the member states wish to retain a larger degree of control. The word assent refers to the role the European Parliament (EP) plays in the procedure. It has to approve or disapprove a proposal, but cannot amend it.

  • Open method of coordination

    This procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the European Union. The open method of coordination (OMC) is applied to policy areas where member states are in full control, but where they also wish to coordinate their policies on a particular subject. Decisions that are based on the open coordination method are non-binding; member states are not held accountable for whether or not they implement decisions. The procedure is not part of the European treaties.

  • Procedure for amendment of the Treaties

    The European Treaties might be amended by using one of three different procedures. These procedures are rarely used, but are of great importance for the functioning of the European Union and the way decisions are made within the European Union.

  • Procedure without participation of the European Parliament

    The European Treaties might be amended by using one of three different procedures. These procedures are rarely used, but are of great importance for the functioning of the European Union and the way decisions are made within the European Union.

  • Consultation procedure

    This procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the European Union. The consultation procedure is used for politically sensitive issues, where the member states bear responsibility for policy making and where the member states make decisions based on unanimity.

The cooperation procedure i is no longer used with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty

3.

Procedures establishing secondary legislation

Much of the EU's regulatory work involves secondary legislation. Primary legal acts establish which of the procedures for secondary legislation is to be used. Firm guidelines and rules govern that choice.

  • Non-legislative procedures

    Many of the legal acts that are adopted in the European Union are of a general nature. The practical details of these legal acts are dealt with through secondary legislation. Secondary legislation cannot exceed the framework established in the general act. However, specific measures can still yield significant effect. The procedure for adopting secondary legislation depends on which of three procedures is used.

  • Social protocol

    For proposals that relate to social policy issues the European Commission is obliged to involve social partners in the decision making process. The involvement of the social partners may move beyond an advisory role: member states can decide to have social partners draw up secondary legislation, albeit within certain boundaries. This apsect is what makes the social protocol different from the other procedures for establishing secondary legislation. However, the social protocol is only possible in a limited number of social policy areas.