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.
The assent procedure differs per topic it is applied to. However, the role European Parliament remains the same for each variant.
Step 1: initiative
The European Commission submits a proposal to the Parliament and the Council.
Step 2: approval of the proposal
The Parliament either approves or disapproves of the proposal. The EP cannot make amendments or give recommendations for amendments. The EP takes the decisions based on a majority of votes cast.
If the EP approves the proposal, it is sent to the Council of Ministers. The Council either accepts or rejects the proposal. The Council cannot amend the proposal. The Council decides unanimously.
Proposals on the implementation of the system by which the EU appropriates resources are decided upon in the Council by qualified majority vote.
Variants in specific cases
The procedure has several variants for rare but important situations. These are:
-the election of the president of the European Commission
-the accession and withdrawal of member states
-measures against member states that violate the fundamental values of the EU
Election of the president of the European Commission and of the European Commission
Step 1: nomination of the president of the Commission
After intensive discussions between all parties concerned, the European Council nominates a candidate by qualified majority vote.
Step 2: appointment of the president of the Commission
The EP decides to either approve or disapprove the candidate-president by a majority of its members.
Step 3: nomination of the Commission
The Council of Minsters and the newly elected president of the Commission nominate the entire Commission.
Step 4: appointment of the Commission
The EP decides to approve or disapprove the appointment of the Commission by a majority of its members.
When the EP has approved a new Commission the European Council decides on the new Commission by qualified majority vote.
Member State accession
Step 1: membership application
Every country that upholds or is working towards upholding the core values of the European Union is eligible to apply for membership of the EU at the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament and the national parliaments are informed of the application.
Step 2: follow-Up on the application
The Council of Ministers consults the Commission. The Council then decides, by unanimity, whether it will accept the application. The European Parliament decides by a majority of its members.
Step 3: accession
Should Council and EP accept the application, accession negotiations ensue. When these negotiations are concluded each of the current member states has to sign a treaty of accession of the new member state. If any member state fails to ratify that treaty the candidate member state cannot join.
Withdrawal of a Member State
Step 1: initiative
A member state that wishes to withdraw from the European Union reports this to the European Council.
Step 2: agreement on secession
The negotiations concerning an agreement between the EU and the withdrawing country are carried out according to the agreement procedure i.
The European Parliament decides whether to approve the agreement by a majority of votes cast. The Council of Ministers decides by a qualified majority vote.
Voting in both the European Council and the Council of Ministers does not include the seceding member state.
Sanctions for violating the values of the Union
Step 1: Initiative
1.The European Commission, or one third of the member states, can request the European Council to look into violations of the core values of the European Union by a member state.
2.The European Commission, the European Parliament or one third of the member states can request the Council of Ministers to look into a violation of the core values of the European Union by a member state.
Step 2: establishing the violation
In the first case (request to the European Council):
-the European Council invites the member state in question to clarify the situation regarding the possible violation of the core values of the European Union. The European Council may determine, by unaninmity, whether a grave and ongoing violation is observed. The European Parliament has to approve this determination by a majority of votes cast.
In the second case (request to the Council of Ministers):
-the Council of Ministers will discuss the case with the member state in question. After this discussion the Council of Ministers decides, by four-fifth of its members, whether a violation is observed. The Council may also make recommendations that could help ease worries about such violations. The European Parliament has to approve this determination and/or recommendation by a majority of votes cast.
Step 3: institutions of sanctions
In the first case (decision by the European Council):
-should the European Council establish a serious and ongoing violation, the Council of Ministers may then decide, by a qualified majority vote, to revoke the rights the member state has according to the European Treaties. The most important of these rights is the right to vote in the Council and the European Council. The annulment of imposed sanctions are decided in the same manner.
Voting in both the European Council and the Council does not include the member state that is under investigation.
The assent procedure is used in several policy areas in addition to the above mentioned special cases. Those policy areas include:
-battling all forms of discrimination
-strengthening of some civil rights: the freedom of settlement, the right to petition the government, the right to vote in local and EP elections, consular assistance by other member states outside of the EU territory
-determining minimum requirements for the punishment of major crimes, and establishing what sort of crimes constitute being a major crime
-initiating an investigation by the European public prosecutor in cases of offences against the financial interests of the EU
-drafting the multiannual Financial Framework
-decisions regarding the implementation of the system of own resources
-taking measures the EU has no authorisation for according to the EU treaties, but that are necessary to achieve the goals of EU policy
The assent-procedure has its legal basis in the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Whether the assent-procedure applies is stated per policy area. For specific cases:
-appointment of the president of the European Commission and the Commission: TEU title III art. 17(7)
-accession and withdrawal of member states: TEU title VI art. 49, 50
-violation of basic rights: TEU title I art. 7