Yellow card (subsidiary control mechanism)

Source: Europa Nu.

A national parliament of an EU member state may object to an EU legislative proposal if it deems the principle of subsidiarity has been violated, i.e. if it argues the subject matter at hand can be best tackled on the national, regional or local level rather than at the European level. If one-third of the national parliaments raise an objection the European Commission must review the proposal. This is commonly referred to as the 'yellow card' as the Commission is given pause and has to decide on whether it withdraws the proposal or whether it will maintain or amend the proposal. In the latter cases the Commission will have provide reasons why it has chosen not to withdraw the proposal.

For proposals relating to the area of freedom, security and justice, the threshold is lower; only one-quarter of the votes suffices.

Should half or more of all national parliaments raise an objection via the subsidiarity control mechanism it is referred to as an 'orange card i'.

This "early warning mechanism" on subsidiarity was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty (December 2009) with the purpose of strengthening the position of national parliaments within the institutional constellation of the European Union.


Prerequisites for parliamentary objections

Objection on grounds of subsidiarity

Parliaments can only raise objections with regard to non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity and not on the contents of a proposal.

Application of the subsidiarity control mechanism

The subsidiarity control mechanism is only applicable to proposals in policy areas where the EU has shared competence with the member states or the EU can propose measures that support the member states in aligning polices. In policy areas where the EU holds exclusive competence the subsidiarity control mechanism is not in effect.

Term for raising objections

National parliaments need to make an objection within eight weeks of receiving the proposal. National parliaments are sent legislative proposals alongside the European Parliament and the Council at the moment these are published.

Distribution of votes

Each national parliament has two votes. In parliaments with a bicameral system each chamber has one vote. Neither the number of seats in a chamber or parliament nor the size of the country is weighed in voting.

Alternative to objection

Rather than outright objection a parliament can also request the Commission to provide additional information and/or explanation of the rationale behind a given proposal.


Legal framework

The subsidiarity control mechanism is based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

  • general provisions: TEU title 2 art. 12
  • procedural details: protocols 1 and 2 to the European Treaties