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Weighting of votes in the Council

Qualified majority voting in the Council of the European Union is based on the principle of the weighting of votes. Under the current weighting system, the Member States with the largest populations have 27-29 votes, the medium-sized countries have 7-14 votes and the small countries 3 or 4 votes. A decision requires at least 255 out of 345 votes to be adopted.

The weighting arrangements are the result of a compromise between Member States that, although equal in law, differ in various respects. The number of votes allocated to a Member State is determined by the size of its population, with an adjustment that leads to relative over-representation of the countries with small populations.

The current weighting of votes, enshrined in the Treaty of Nice, came into force on 1 November 2004.

The Treaty of Lisbon (Article 16 of the Treaty on European Union) introduces a new definition for the rule of qualified majority which shall be applicable in three stages:

  • From 1 December 2009 until 1 November 2014: the weighting of votes system from the Treaty of Nice continues to apply. A blocking minority may be established by gathering together a coalition of 91 votes or 38% of the population of the Union.
  • From 1 November 2014 until 31 March 2017: the new weighting rule applies, but Member States can demand the application of the previous weighting rules and the “Ionnina Compromise”.
  • From 1 April 2017: the rule of double majority is obligatory. The Council adopts a decision when it is approved by at least 55% of Council members comprising of at least 15 of them and representing Member States which include at least 65% of the population of the European Union. A blocking minority is made up of at least four Member States.

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