Ordinary legislative procedure (COD)

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.

Roughly, the ordinary legislative procedure proceeds as follows: the European Commission submits a proposal. The European Parliament (EP) and Council of Ministers (Council) will either approve or amend the proposal. If EP and Council cannot reach an agreement on the proposed amendments both can amend the proposal a second time. If they still cannot reach an agreement they enter negotiations. After these are concluded both institutions can either vote in favour or against.



ordinary legislative procedure


Ordinary legislative procedure in detail

Step 1: initiative

The European Commission submits a proposal to the Parliament and the Council.

Step 2: approval or amendments

The Parliament takes a vote on the proposal. There are two possible outcomes:

  • 1. 
    the EP approves the proposal
  • 2. 
    the EP amends the proposal

The - possibly amended - proposal is put before the Council. There are two possible outcomes:

  • 1. 
    the Council approves the proposal, the proposal is adopted
  • 2. 
    the Council amends the proposal. The Council is allowed to amend any possible amendments made by the Parliament

Step 3: amended proposal, second reading

The proposal as amended by the Council is submitted to Parliament. Parliament has four options:

  • 1. 
    if the EP does not make any decision regarding the Council proposal, it is adopted
  • 2. 
    the EP approves the amended proposal, it is adopted
  • 3. 
    the EP rejects the proposal, the proposal is not adopted
  • 4. 
    the EP amends the proposal. The Parliament is allowed to amend amendments made by the Council

If Parliament decides to amend the proposal, the proposal is sent to the Commission. The Commission will issue an opinion on the amended proposal, after which the proposal is submitted to the Council. At the Council, there are two possible outcomes:

  • 1. 
    the Council approves the amended and reviewed proposal. Decision-making in the Council at this point depends on the advice of the Commission:
  • if the Commission issued a positive opinion the Council decides on the basis of qualified majority voting
  • if the Commission issued a negative opinion the Council decides on the basis of unanimity
  • 2. 
    the Council rejects the proposal, conciliation is initiated automatically

Step 4: conciliation

When Council in their second reading does not approve of some or all amendments made by Parliament a Conciliation Committee is convened. The Committee is composed of delegations of Council, Parliament and Commission. Negotiations take place on the basis of the proposals made by the Parliament and the Council in their respective second readings.

If negotiations on an amended proposal are not concluded within six weeks, the proposal is rejected.

Step 5: third reading

Both the Parliament and the Council have to decide on the amended proposal. They can either approve or reject the proposal, amendments are not permitted.

On voting procedures

For every step in the decision-making process the European Parliament decides by majority vote. Unless indicated otherwise the Council decides by qualified majority vote.

Mandatory opinions

In their respective policy areas the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors have to be consulted on proposals before Parliament and Council can finalise their decision-procedures in the first reading.

Emergency break procedure

By means of this procedure a member state can request the Council to suspend the legislative process. The proposal is then put to the European Council.

The emergency break procedure can only be invoked for fundamental proposals in a limited number of policy areas (foreign and defence policy, social security, judicial cooperation in criminal matters).


In a limited number of policy areas the Commission may submit proposals together with the member states, the European Court of Justice or the European Central Bank. In such cases the procedure is slightly modified. Council and Parliament now have to inform the Commission of their views at each step of the legislative process, and they can ask the Commission for an opinion at each step as well. The Commission can issue an opinion at any given moment in the legislative proces at their own initiative.

Voting procedures, the right of amendment and the rules on adopting or rejecting a proposal remain the same.

The policy areas this exception can be applied to are:

  • closer co-operation in criminal matters
  • administrative co-operation in security aspects of home affairs
  • measures regarding the usage of the euro
  • establishing the statute of the European Central Bank
  • establishing the statutes of the Court of Justice and establishing specialised courts


Application of the ordinary legislative procedure

The ordinary legislative procedure is the standard procedure for all decision-making in the European Union, unless the treaties state otherwise. In such cases one of the extraordinary decision-making procedures is used. As a result, most policy areas use the ordinary legislative procedure. A general exception to this rule is the common foreign and defence policy.

Other important policy areas where the ordinary legislative procedure is not used are institutional reforms, tax policy, a fair share of social policies and a number of areas in the field of justice and home affairs.

In practice, most proposals are adopted at first reading. The reason for this is that the European institutions hold extensive deliberations before the Commission formally submits a proposal.


Legal framework

The ordinary legislative procedure is based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TfEU).

  • scope: part six TfEU title 1 chapter 2 section 1 art. 289
  • procedure: part six TfEU title 1 chapter 2 section 2 art. 294


Further information