Orange card (subsidiary control mechanism)


A national parliament of an EU member state may object to an EU legislative proposal if it deems the principle of subsidiarity has been violated, i.e. if it argues the subject matter at hand can be best tackled on the national, regional or local level rather than at the European level. If half of the national parliaments raise an objection the European Commission must review the proposal. This is commonly referred to as the 'orange card' as the Commission is given pause and has to decide on whether it withdraws the proposal or whether it will maintain or amend the proposal.

Should the Commission decide to stay the proposal, in either its orginal or in an amended version, it will have to submit a detailed advice on why the Commission believes subsidiarity is adhered to in the proposal. The Council of Ministers and European Parliament then take a vote on whether the proposal can be submitted for legislative proceedings or whether it is rejected outright.

When a third but not yet half or more of all national parliaments raise an objection via the subsidiarity control mechanism it is referred to as an 'yellow card i'.

This "early warning mechanism" on subsidiarity was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty (December 2009) with the purpose of strengthening the position of national parliaments within the institutional constellation of the European Union.


Prerequisites for parliamentary objections

Objection on grounds of subsidiarity

Parliaments can only raise objections with regard to non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity and not on the contents of a proposal.

Application of the subsidiarity control mechanism

The subsidiarity control mechanism is only applicable to proposals in policy areas where the EU has shared competence with the member states or the EU can propose measures that support the member states in aligning polices. In policy areas where the EU holds exclusive competence the subsidiarity control mechanism is not in effect.

Term for raising objections

National parliaments need to make an objection within eight weeks of receiving the proposal. National parliaments are sent legislative proposals alongside the European Parliament and the Council at the moment these are published.

Distribution of votes

Each national parliament has two votes. In parliaments with a bicameral system each chamber has one vote. Neither the number of seats in a chamber or parliament nor the size of the country is weighed in voting.

Voting on stayed proposals

When the Commission decides to stay a proposal after it having been dealt an orange card the Council and the European Parliament will have to decide whether they allow the proposal to be taken into consideration, based solely on the grounds of subsidiarity. An objection by either Council or EP is enough to reject the proposal from being taken into consideration.

For an objection to be made a minimum of 55% of the member states in the Council is needed. In the Parliament an objection requires a majority of votes cast.

Alternative to objection

Rather than outright objection a parliament can also request the Commission to provide additional information and/or explanation of the rationale behind a given proposal.


Legal framework

The subsidiarity control mechanism is based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

  • general provisions: TEU title 2 art. 12
  • procedural details: protocols 1 and 2 to the European Treaties