Community and intergovernmental methods
The Treaty of Maastricht (1992) introduced an institutional structure composed of three pillars and also the distinction between the Community and intergovernmental methods. This institutional architecture and its methods prevailed up until the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Community method denoted the institutional functioning of the first pillar of the European Union. It was based on a premise of integration and was characterised by the following main features in particular:
- Commission monopoly of the right of initiative;
- widespread use of qualified majority voting in the Council;
- an active role for the European Parliament (opinions, proposals for amendments, etc.);
- uniform interpretation of Community law by the Court of Justice.
It contrasted with the intergovernmental method of operation used in the second and third pillars, which was based on a premise of intergovernmental cooperation (intergovernmental method), characterised by the following main features:
- the Commission's right of initiative is shared with the Member States or confined to specific areas of activity;
- the Council generally acts unanimously;
- the European Parliament has a purely consultative role;
- the Court of Justice plays only a minor role.
The Treaty of Lisbon abolished the three pillar structure in favour of creating the European Union (EU). Within the EU, decisions are taken in accordance with a procedure of common law, called the “ordinary legislative procedure”. However, the abolition of the “pillar” structure did not entail the “communitisation” of the Common Foreign and Security Policy for which the intergovernmental method is maintained. Similarly, although the areas of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters have been integrated into the regime of ordinary law, specific procedures, where Member States keep significant powers, continue to be applicable to them.