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Qualified majority voting

INTRODUCTION

The Treaty of Amsterdam extended the scope of qualified majority voting to the Council. Since it entered into force on 1 May 1999, the Council has adopted most legislative instruments by qualified majority, in codecision with the European Parliament.

However, the unanimity rule still applies in the case of 73 articles. With a membership of 27 countries after enlargement, this could paralyse the Union, as its greater size and diversity would make unanimity increasingly difficult to achieve. Moving over to qualified majority voting is therefore one of the most important tasks of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). The Nice Treaty introduced qualified majority voting into some 30 provisions.

EC TREATY -- COMMUNITY POLICIES

In the field of Community policies, the Nice Treaty brought in around ten provisions allowing the Council to act by qualified majority for some or all aspects of the articles concerned.

Article 11 - Enhanced cooperation

Qualified majority voting is maintained for decisions by the Council authorising enhanced cooperation under the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty). The clause allowing a Member State to refer the matter to the European Council, the latter then acting by unanimous decision has, however, been dropped. This means that Member States no longer have a right of veto to prevent enhanced cooperation in areas falling under the first pillar.

Article 13 - Combating discrimination

Qualified majority voting is introduced for Community incentive measures, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States in respect of combating discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Article 18 - Citizenship

Qualified majority voting is introduced for Community action to ensure and facilitate exercise of the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

Article 63 - Asylum, refugees, immigration policy

Under the new provisions of Article 67, the Council may, acting by qualified majority, adopt certain measures on asylum, refugees and displaced persons, immigration policy and the rights of nationals of third countries legally resident in a Member State, provided that it has previously, acting unanimously, adopted Community legislation defining the common rules and basic principles governing these issues. The introduction of qualified majority voting therefore remains subject to these conditions and to the prior definition of common principles in this area. The codecision procedure now also applies to this article.

Article 65 - Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Under the new provisions of Article 67, the Council may, by qualified majority, adopt measures in the field of judicial cooperation in civil matters with cross-border implications, with the exception of aspects relating to family law. The codecision procedure now also applies to this article.

Article 66 - Cooperation between Member States

In accordance with the Protocol on Article 67 annexed to the EC Treaty, with effect from 1 May 2004 the Council may, acting by qualified majority, take measures to ensure cooperation between departments of the administrations of the Member States, and between these departments and the Commission.

Article 100 - Economic distortions

Qualified majority voting is introduced for measures taken in the event of difficulties in the supply of certain products. The Council may also act by qualified majority on the question of granting financial assistance to a Member State in the event of natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control.

Article 111 - External issues of relevance to economic and monetary union

Paragraph 4 of this article has been amended to introduce qualified majority voting for deciding on the position of the Community and on its representation at international level as regards issues of particular relevance to economic and monetary union (EMU).

Article 123 - Introduction of the euro

Qualified majority voting applies to paragraph 4 of this article concerning the measures needed for the rapid introduction of the euro. This provision will be important in the context of the future enlargement of the euro zone.

Article 133 - Common commercial policy

This article was amended by the Nice Treaty to extend the scope of commercial policy and, as a result, of qualified majority voting for agreements in the fields of trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property. There are still, however, some exceptions to this principle:

  • The Council may not conclude agreements which entail harmonisation of national legislation in fields such as culture, education or human health (fields in which the Community does not have internal powers of harmonisation)
  • The Council must act unanimously where the agreement includes provisions for which unanimity is required for the adoption of internal rules (parallelism) or where it relates to a field in which the Community has not yet exercised its internal powers
  • This article does not apply to the field of transport.

Article 137 - Social policy

The Nice Treaty did not extend qualified majority voting, but introduced a bridging clause for certain fields which are in principle still subject to the unanimity rule. For example, the Council, acting unanimously, may decide to apply the codecision procedure in accordance with Article 251 of the EC Treaty (which would involve qualified majority voting) to paragraph 1(d), (f) and (g) of Article 137 concerning the protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated, representation and collective defence of workers' interests and conditions of employment for third country nationals.

Article 157 - Industry

Paragraph 3 of this article has been amended to introduce qualified majority voting and the codecision procedure with the Parliament for specific measures in support of action by Member States in the field of industrial policy.

Article 159 - Economic and social cohesion

Qualified majority voting has been introduced into the third paragraph of this article, and the codecision procedure with the Parliament is applicable to specific actions outside the Structural Funds considered necessary in the context of cohesion policy.

Article 161 - Structural Funds

The new paragraph 3 introduces qualified majority voting on the tasks, priority objectives and the organisation of the Structural Funds including the general rules applicable to the Funds. However, qualified majority voting will not take effect until 1 January 2007, and on condition that the multi-annual financial perspective applicable from 1 January 2007 has been adopted.

Article 181A - Economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries

The purpose of this new article is to supplement Article 181 and to specify the different types of measure the Community may carry out in the sphere of economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries. The measures already decided on in this area were adopted under the procedure laid down in Article 308 of the EC Treaty and were therefore subject to the unanimity rule. The new article provides a new legal basis for such acts and introduces qualified majority voting except in the case of association agreements (Article 310) and the agreements to be concluded with the States which are candidates for accession to the Union.

Article 279 - Financial provisions

Qualified majority voting will be applicable to Financial Regulations and the responsibility of financial controllers with effect from 1 January 2007.

EC TREATY - INSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting into various articles dealing with institutional matters. Most notably, appointment of the President of the Commission and the other Commissioners, as well as of the High Representative for the common foreign and security policy will now be by qualified majority, which constitutes a major breakthrough.

Article 190 - European Parliament

Qualified majority voting is applicable to paragraph 5 of this article governing adoption of the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of the Members of Parliament.

Article 191 - Regulations governing political parties at European level

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting in respect of the regulations governing political parties at European level, in particular the rules regarding their funding. It also introduces the codecision procedure.

Article 207 - Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the common foreign and security policy (CFSP)

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for the appointment of the Secretary-General of the Council (High Representative for the common foreign and security policy) and of the Deputy Secretary-General.

Article 210 - Remuneration

The salaries, allowances and pensions of the President and Members of the Commission, and of certain members of the Court of Justice and Court of First Instance, are now determined by the Council acting by a qualified majority.

Article 214 - Appointment of the Members of the Commission

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for nomination by the Council of the President and other Commission Members.

Article 215 - Replacement of a Member of the Commission

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for the replacement of a Commission Member in the event of his or her resignation or death. A decision by the Council not to replace the Member concerned still requires unanimity.

Article 223 - Court of Justice

Qualified majority voting is applicable to approval by the Council of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice. The Judges and Advocates-General are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

Article 224 - Court of First Instance

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for approval by the Council of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of First Instance. The members of the Court are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

Article 247 - Court of Auditors

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for the appointment of the Members of the Court of Auditors.

Article 248 - Court of Auditors, Rules of Procedure

Qualified majority voting is applicable to approval by the Council of the Court of Auditors' rules of procedure.

Article 259 - European Economic and Social Committee

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for the appointment of the members of the European Economic and Social Committee.

Article 263 - Committee of the Regions

Qualified majority voting applies to the appointment of the members of the Committee of the Regions.

EU TREATY

Article 23 - Appointment of a special representative for the CFSP

Pursuant to the Treaty of Nice, the Council shall act by qualified majority when appointing a special representative for the CFSP.

Article 24 - International agreements

Without extending the scope of qualified majority voting, the Nice Treaty introduces three new paragraphs to clarify the voting procedures (qualified majority/unanimity) in respect of this article.

Article 27C - Enhanced cooperation in the area of the CFSP

The Nice Treaty introduces qualified majority voting for authorisation by the Council of enhanced cooperation in the area of the CFSP. However, the possibility for Member States to refer the matter to the Council is maintained, in which case the Council must act unanimously.

Article 40A - Enhanced cooperation in the area of police and judicial cooperation

The Treaty of Nice maintains qualified majority voting for authorisation by the Council of enhanced cooperation in the area of police and judicial cooperation. The right of veto by a Member State has been dropped.

SUMMARY TABLE

ArticlesSubject
EC Treaty11Enhanced cooperation
13Combating discrimination
18Citizenship
63Asylum, refugees, immigration policy
65Judicial cooperation in civil matters
66Cooperation between Member States
100Economic distortions
111External issues of relevance to economic and monetary union
123Introduction of the euro
133Common commercial policy
137Social policy
157Industry
159Economic and social cohesion
161Structural Funds
181AEconomic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries
190European Parliament
191Regulations governing political parties at European level
207Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the common foreign and security policy
210Remuneration
214Appointment of the Members of the Commission
215Replacement of a Member of the Commission
223Court of Justice
224Court of First Instance
247Court of Auditors
248Court of Auditors, Rules of Procedure
259European Economic and Social Committee
263Committee of the Regions
279Financial provisions
EU Treaty23Appointment of a special representative for the CFSP
24International agreements
27CEnhanced cooperation in the area of the CFSP
40AEnhanced cooperation in the area of police and judicial cooperation
EC Treaty - ProtocolProtocol on Article 67 of the EC Treaty
Last updated: 13.09.2007
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