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Luxembourg compromise

The Luxembourg Compromise, signed on 30 January 1966, provides that "Where, in the case of decisions which may be taken by majority vote on a proposal of the Commission, very important interests of one or more partners are at stake, the Members of the Council will endeavour, within a reasonable time, to reach solutions which can be adopted by all the Members of the Council while respecting their mutual interests and those of the Community".

It ended the crisis between France and its five Community partners and the European Commission, caused by the gradual transition from unanimous voting to qualified-majority voting as provided for in the Treaty of Rome with effect from 1966. The French Government, which gave precedence to the intergovernmental approach, expressed its disapproval by applying the "empty chair" policy, i.e. abstaining from Council proceedings for seven months from 30 June 1965 onwards.

However, the Compromise, which is only a political declaration by Foreign Ministers and cannot amend the Treaty, did not prevent the Council from taking decisions in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community, which provided for a series of situations in which qualified-majority voting applied. Moreover, qualified-majority voting has been gradually extended to many areas and has now become normal procedure, unanimity being the exception. The Luxembourg Compromise remains in force even though, in practice, it may simply be evoked without actually having the power to block the decision-making process.

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