Council decides by qualified majority vote

Source: Europa Nu.

The Council adopts a proposal when the following conditions are met:

  • a minimum of 55% of the member states, with a minimum of 15 member states, vote in favor. These votes are counted using a 'one member state, one vote' system; weighed voting is not applied
  • the member states in favor represent a minimum of 65% of the total population of the EU

A majority of the member states is required in order for a vote to be called.

Near blocking minorities

When a proposal is approved but the votes against represent 55% or more of the votes (of either conditions mentioned above) required to block a proposal those member states who voted against may call to postpone a decision. The Council then proceeds to find a satisfactory solution that meets the objections raised by opposing member states, within a reasonable time.

Between the 1st of November 2014 and the 1st of April 2017 the percentage was set at 75% instead of 55%.

Emergency brake

On votes pertaining to particularly sensitive topics within the fields of foreign affairs and security, the criminal justice system and social security a member state may call upon an 'emergency brake'. Decision-making procedures are then suspended and the proposal is referred to the European Council.

This procedure was agreed upon in the Lisbon Treaty to ensure national vital interests in these areas would not be impaired by majority voting.

Limited composition of the Council

In a number of policy areas not all member states participate. In such cases only those member states that are subject to European decision-making may cast a vote. A proposal is adopted by qualified majority, and the threshold for attaining a qualified majority is recalculated to match the member states concerned.

Application of voting method

This voting method is the method of voting used in the Council of Ministers, unless it stated otherwise in the European Treaties.

CFSP & JHA: different threshold

When voting on a proposal submitted by any institutions other than the European Commission or High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security the threshold is raised to 72% of the member states in favour instead of 55%. The population requirements remain the same at 65%.

Legal framework

Voting by simple majority is based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

  • application voting method: in cases decision making is based on simple majority voting this is explicitly mentioned in the Treaties
  • on weighing votes: part six TFEU title I chapter 1 section 3 art. 238 paragraph 1
  • limited composition: part six TFEU title III art. 330