European Parliament: Ordinary legislative procedure  

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Step list:

#1Commission proposal

European Commission submits legislative proposal to the European Parliament

Actors with right of initiative
  • European Investment Bank      
  • European Central Bank      
  • European Parliament      
  • Citizens' initiative      
  • A quarter of the member states      
Details
  • Deadline: 

    There is no time limit for the submission of Commission proposal

     
  • Vote: 

    The College of Commissioners adopts Commission proposals by written procedure (without discussion) or oral procedure (with discussion). If a vote is requested, the Commission decides by simple majority.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    The document proposed by the Commission is a: Proposal for a regulation (or directive or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council on [subject matter].

    The document reference comprises COM(4-digits year)4-digits number

     
  • Statistics: 

    During the 7th legislature (2009-2014) the Commission presented 584 proposals falling under the co-decision/legislative ordinary procedure, up from 508 during the 6th legislature (2004-2209) and 432 during the 5th legislature (1999-2004).
    During the 7th legislature, proposals for the co-decision/ordinary legislative procedure amounted to 89% of all 658 legislative proposals from the Commission, compared to 49% during the 6th legislation (out of 1041 proposals), 42% during the 5th legislation (out of 1028 proposals) and 21% during the 4th legislation (1994-1999).

     
    

#2 1st reading in the Parliament

During its 1st reading, the European Parliament examines the Commission's proposal and may adopt or amend it.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    There is no time limit on Parliament's 1st reading

     
  • Vote: 

    Committee and plenary votes are by a simple majority of votes cast

     
  • Resulting document: 

    Parliament adopts a Position of the European Parliament at 1st reading.

     
  • Statistics: 

    During the 7th legislature (2009-2014) 14% of co-decision/OLP files went to the Environment Committee, 11% to the Economic and Monetary Committee, 10% to the International Trade Committee and 10% to the Civil Liberties Committee.
    In comparison, the distribution for the 6th legislature (2004-2009) was as follows: 20% of co-decision files went to the Environment Committee, 18.3% to the Legal Affairs Committee and 11.4% to the Transport Committee.

     
    

#3 1st reading in Council

During its 1st reading, the Council may decide to accept Parliament's position in which case the legislative act is adopted, or it may amend Parliament's position, and return the proposal to Parliament for a 2nd reading.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    There is no time limit on the Council's 1st reading

     
  • Vote: 

    The Council decides by qualified majority, unless its position differs from that of the Commission, in which case unanimity is required.

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    Find out what position your government is taking on proposed legislation and send your comments and concerns to the relevant national authorities.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    If Council adopts Parliament's position without changes, the legislative act is adopted and published as a Directive (or regulation or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

    If the Council proposes changes to the Parliament's position at first reading, the resulting document is: Position of the Council at first reading

     
  • Statistics: 

    During the 7th legislature, 85% of files were agreed at 1st reading (415 out of 488 concluded), compared to 72% during the 6th legislature (2004-2009) and 29% during the 5th term (1999-2004).

    The average time from a Commission proposal until the signature following the adoption of an act concluded on the 1st reading was 17 months in the 7th legislature, 16 months in the 6th legislature and 11 months in the 5th legislature.

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is adopted   The vast majority of proposals are adopted at this stage    
  2. The legislative proposal moves to the next step  
    

#4 2nd reading in Parliament

Parliament examines Council's position and approves it, in which case the act is approved; or rejects it, in which case the act will not enter into force and the whole procedure is ended; or proposes amendments and returns the proposal to Council for a 2nd reading.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    Parliament has 3 months to conduct a 2nd reading with a possible 1-month extension.

     
  • Vote: 

    The parliamentary committee responsible decides by simple majority of votes cast.

    The plenary acts by simple majority of votes cast if it approves Council's 1st reading position without amendments. Any amendments or rejection of Council's position must be approved by an absolute majority of MEPs.

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    The possibility of introducing changes to the draft text is minimal. Amendments are limited to restoring Parliament's previous amendments, reflecting a compromise between Parliament and Council, or a new legal situation. However, you can still contact your MEPs and ask them to vote for or against any amendments and the report

     
  • Resulting document: 

    If the Parliament approves Council's position at first reading, it adopts a European Parliament legislative resolution on the Council position at first reading. The legislative act is adopted and published as a Directive (or regulation or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

    If the European Parliament votes to modify Council's position it adopts the Position of the European Parliament adopted at 2nd reading

     
  • Statistics: 

    In the 7th legislature, 40 out of 488 concluded OLP files (8%) were adopted in so-called early 2nd readings, when Parliament adopts a pre-negotiated (between Parliament, Council and Commission) Council 1st reading position without amendments, meaning the act is adopted. The average length of the procedure for early 2nd reading agreements was 32 months.

    In the 6th term (2004-2009), 10% of files were adopted in early 2nd reading, taking an average of 25 months. In the 5th term, 25% of files were adopted in early 2nd reading, taking an average of 23 months.

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is adopted   
  2. The legislative proposal is not adopted   
  3. The legislative proposal moves to the next step  
    

#5 2nd reading in Council

Council examines Parliament's 2nd reading position and either approves all of Parliament's amendments meaning the act is adopted, or does not approve all amendments, leading to the convening of the Conciliation Committee.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    The Council has 3 months to conduct its 2nd reading with a possible 1-month extension.

     
  • Vote: 

    Council votes by qualified majority on the Parliament's amendments for which the Commission has delivered a positive opinion, and unanimously on amendments for which the Commission has delivered a negative opinion.

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    Council can only react to Parliament's amendments. You can let your government know your position on the individual amendments.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    If Council approves Parliament's 2nd reading position the legislative act is adopted and published as a Directive (or regulation or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

    If the Council does not approve the Parliament's position at 2nd reading, there is no official document.

     
  • Statistics: 

    During the 7th legislature, 5% of all co-decision files were agreed at the 2nd reading (excluding agreements at early 2nd reading), compared to 13 % during the 6th legislature and 24% during the 5th legislature.

    The average length of the procedure for files being adopted in the 2nd reading during the 7th legislature (excluding agreements at early 2nd reading) was 32 months. The same average length also concerns files adopted in 2nd reading during the 6th legislature, compared to 24 months during the 5th legislature.

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is adopted   
  2. The legislative proposal moves to the next step  
    

#6 Conciliation

The Conciliation Committee, composed of an equal number of MEPs and Council representatives, tries to reach agreement on a joint text. If unsuccessful, the legislative act will not enter into force and the procedure is ended. If a joint text is agreed, it is forwarded to the European Parliament and Council for a 3rd reading.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    The Conciliation Committee must be convened within 6 (with a possible extension to 8) weeks. It has 6 (or 8 if jointly agreed) weeks to agree a joint text.

     
  • Vote: 

    The Parliament delegation to the Conciliation Committee approves the joint text by an absolute majority (at least 15 votes of 28 currently), while the Council representatives generally vote by qualified majority (although there are some exceptions requiring unanimity).

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    There are virtually no possibilities for introducing amendments, but you can inform the MEPs participating in the conciliation committee and your government on the points that you believe should not be included in the final legislative act.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    If agreement is reached, the committee comes up with a "joint text" or (in full) "Joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee".

     
  • Statistics: 

    During the 7th legislature, 2% of files (9 files) went to conciliation, down from 5% of files (24 files) during the 6th legislature and 20% during the 5th legislature. Over the last few years, the norm has been one or two conciliations per year.
    The Conciliation Committee failed to approve a joint text on:
    Voice telephony in 1994
    Securities Committe in 1998
    Working Time Directive in 2009
    Novel Foods Regulation in 2011

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is not adopted   
  2. The legislative proposal moves to the next step  
    

#7a 3rd reading in Parliament

The European Parliament examines the joint text and votes in plenary. It cannot change the wording of the joint text. If it rejects it or fails to act on it, the act is not adopted and the procedure is ended. If it is approved by Parliament and Council, the act is adopted.

Details
  • Deadline: 

    Both the European Parliament and Council must act within 6 (or 8 if agreed between them) weeks of the date on which the joint text was approved.

     
  • Vote: 

    Parliament approves the joint position by a simple majority of votes cast. The Council approves the joint text by qualified majority.

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    The joint text cannot be changed. You can only ask MEPs and/or your government to approve or reject the joint text.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    European Parliament adopts a legislative resolution on the joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee in which it either approves or rejects the joint text.

    Council does not produce any official document.

    If the joint text is approved, the legislative act is adopted and published as a Directive (or regulation or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

     
  • Statistics: 

    So far, three joint texts have been rejected by Parliament:
    Protection of biotechnological inventions in 1995
    Takover bids in 2001
    Port Services in 2003
    The Council has never rejected a joint text.
    The average time for files that passed successfully through conciliation – from Commission proposal to signature – was 29 months during the 7th legislature (2009-2014), compared to 43 months during the 6th legislature and 31 months during the 5th legislature.

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is adopted   
  2. The legislative proposal is not adopted   
    

#7b 3rd reading in the Council

Council examines the joint text. It cannot change the wording. If it either rejects or does not act on it, act will not enter into force and the procedure is ended. If it approves the text and the Parliament also approves it, the act is adopted

Details
  • Deadline: 

    Both the European Parliament and Council must act within 6 (or 8 if agreed between them) weeks of the date on which the joint text was approved.

     
  • Vote: 

    Parliament approves the joint position by a simple majority of votes cast. The Council approves the joint text by qualified majority.

     
  • Citizens' involvement: 

    The joint text cannot be changed. You can only ask MEPs and/or your government to approve or reject the joint text.

     
  • Resulting document: 

    European Parliament adopts a legislative resolution on the joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee in which it either approves or rejects the joint text.

    Council does not produce any official document.

    If the joint text is approved, the legislative act is adopted and published as a Directive (or regulation or decision) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

     
  • Statistics: 

    So far, three joint texts have been rejected by Parliament:
    Protection of biotechnological inventions in 1995
    Takover bids in 2001
    Port Services in 2003
    The Council has never rejected a joint text.
    The average time for files that passed successfully through conciliation - from Commission proposal to signature - was 43.9 months in the 6th legislature, compared with 31.9 months in the 5th legislature. The shortest procedure during the 6th legislature took 28.8 months, the longest 159.4 months..

     
Result:
  1. The legislative proposal is adopted   
  2. The legislative proposal is not adopted   
    

Result:

  1. Proposal adopted

    Once both European Parliament and Council have approved the final text of a legislative proposal, it is jointly signed by the Presidents and Secretaries General of both institutions. After signature, the texts are published in the Official Journal and become official.

    • Regulations are directly binding throughout the EU as of the date set down in the Official Journal.
    • Directives lay down end results to be achieved in every member state, but leaves it up to national governments to decide how to adapt their laws to achieve these goals. Each directive specifies the date by which the national laws must be adapted.
    • Decisions apply in specific cases, involving particular authorities or individuals and are fully binding.
     
         
  2. Proposal not adopted

    If a legislative proposal is rejected at any stage of the procedure, or the Parliament and Council cannot reach a compromise, the proposal is not adopted and the procedure is ended. A new procedure can start only with a new proposal from the Commission.

     
     
                                                                                                 
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For further information:

#1 Commission proposal:
Citizen involvement 

  1. If you think the EU should initiate legislation, you have several options:
    1. start a citizens´ initiative - if you collect, within a year, a minimum of 1 million signatures from EU citizens in at least 7 member states, you can ask the European Commission to act in an area falling within its remit. More on the citizens' initiative
    2. lobby your MEP, who can
      1. initiate the process whereby the Parliament asks the Commission to propose legislation. This is possible only in cases where Parliament thinks EU legislation is needed to help implement the Treaties. If the Commission refuses to submit a proposal, it has to give an explanation.
      2. request a Parliamentary committee draw up an own-initiative report that, once approved by the Parliament, though non-binding, can put pressure on the Commission to come up with new proposals.
      3. ask the Commission a question, on the basis of which it might consider legislation. More on questions
      4. launch a written declaration, which if signed by more than half of the MEPs is sent to the Commission with a request for action. More on written declarations
    3. submit a petition to the European Parliament. More on petitions
  2. Once the Commission starts preparing or revising legislation, it usually opens a public consultation, allowing interested parties and experts to give their views. More on public consultations
 
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#2 1st reading in the Parliament:
Citizen involvement 

When the proposal is sent to Parliament, the rapporteur and "shadow rapporteurs" (Members usually appointed by each of the political groups to follow a procedure) usually start collecting opinions from concerned parties. You can submit your opinion to them, to any other member of the committee, or to any MEP.


In the committee stage, amendments can be tabled by any MEP but amendments in plenary must be tabled by the committee responsible, a political group or at least 40 MEPs.


Committees sometimes organise public hearings, in which you may be able to participate.


Committee meeting and plenary are webstreamed live. You can follow them on EPTV


You can advise your MEP on which tabled amendments you think are advantageous or otherwise.

 
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Complete texts: 

#1 Commission proposal 

Complete text 
The European Commission prepares legislative proposals on its own initiative or at the request of other EU institutions or countries, or following a citizens' initiative, often after public consultations. The final proposal is forwarded simultaneously to the European Parliament, Council and national parliaments and, in some cases, to the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee.
  1. The ordinary procedure starts with the submission of a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council.
  2. The ordinary legislative procedure currently applies in 85 defined policy areas covering the majority of the EU's areas of competence.
  3. The "right of initiative" lies with the European Commission. It is responsible for submitting most legislative proposals. However, Parliament and Council may ask the Commission to submit proposals and in a few well-defined cases other institutions may come up with proposals.
  4. Parliament (by a majority of its component Members) may ask the Commission to submit a proposal in cases where Parliament thinks EU legislation is needed to help implement the Treaties. If the Commission refuses to submit a proposal, it has to give an explanation.
  5. The Council (acting by a simple majority) may request the Commission to undertake any studies ministers consider desirable for the attainment of common objectives, and to submit to it any appropriate proposals.
  6. In the following very specific cases, the Treaties allow the ordinary legislative procedure to be launched:
    • on the initiative of a quarter of the member states (judicial cooperation in criminal matters, police cooperation)
    • on a recommendation from the European Central Bank (certain articles of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank)
    • at the request of the Court of Justice of the European Union (establishment of specialised courts attached to the General Court to hear and determine at first instance certain classes of action or proceeding brought in specific areas, certain provisions of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union)
    • at the request of the European Investment Bank
  7. A Commission proposal may also follow a European Citizens' Initiative.
  8. The Commission's proposal is the result of an extensive consultation process, which may be conducted in various ways (an obligatory impact assessment, reports by experts, consultation of national experts, international organisations and/or non-governmental organisations, consultation via Green and White Papers etc.).
  9. A consultation process is also launched among the different Commission departments in order to ensure that all aspects of the matter in question are taken into account (inter-service consultation).
  10. The Commission's proposal is usually adopted by the College of Commissioners on the basis of either a written procedure (no discussion among Commissioners) or an oral procedure (the dossier is discussed by the College of Commissioners) and is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
  11. The Commission submits its legislative proposal (normally for a regulation, directive or a decision) to the European Parliament and the Council, but also to all EU national parliaments and, where applicable, to the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee.

The role of national parliaments

  1. According to Protocol No 1 on the role of national parliaments and Protocol No 2 on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the Treaty on the European Union, national parliaments have eight weeks to issue a reasoned opinion if they consider that draft legislation does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. Each national parliament has two votes. In bicameral parliamentary systems, each of the two chambers has one vote.
  2. If at least 1/3 of national parliaments are of the opinion that the draft legislation does not comply with the subsidiarity principle, it must be reviewed ('yellow card'). The threshold falls to ¼ for a draft legislative proposal submitted on the basis of Article 76 TFEU (judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation). After the 'yellow card' review, the authoring institution (usually the Commission) may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the legislation.
  3. Furthermore, under the ordinary legislative procedure, if a simple majority of national parliaments consider that the draft legislative proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, the draft must be re-examined by the Commission ('orange card'). After such a review the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal. If the Commission decides to keep the proposal it must justify its position. The European Parliament and Council must then consider, before concluding the first reading, whether the proposal is compatible with the principle of subsidiarity. If Parliament by a simple majority of its Members or the Council by a majority of 55% of its members consider that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, it is dropped.

Opinions of the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee

  1. The Economic and Social Committee (ESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) must be consulted by the Commission and the Council on certain issues or when the Council considers it appropriate. For example, the ESC must give its opinion on economic and social policy and the CoR must be consulted on environment, education and transport. The Council or Commission can set a time limit for the submission of opinions. The European Parliament also has the option of consulting the two Committees. In addition, the Committees can issue opinions on their own initiative.
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#2 1st reading in the European Parliament 

Complete text 
The President of the European Parliament refers the proposal to a parliamentary committee, which appoints a rapporteur who is responsible for drawing up a draft report containing amendments to the proposed text. The committee votes on this report and any amendments to it tabled by other members. The European Parliament then discusses and votes on the legislative proposal in plenary on the basis of the committee report and amendments. The result is the Parliament's position. Parliament can accept the proposal without any changes or make amendments. In rare cases the President can request the Commission withdraw its proposal. Parliament's 1st reading position is forwarded to the Council.
  1. Once a legislative proposal from the European Commission arrives at the European Parliament, the President, after consultation with the relevant technical services, refers it to the committee responsible.
  2. The choice of committee depends on the subject-matter covered by the proposal.
  3. Other committees might be offered the possibility to offer their opinion if the subject matter also concerns them.
  4. If there is a conflict over competence, for example the matter falls almost equally within the competences of two or more committees, the Conference of Presidents decides on the procedure, on the basis of a recommendation from the Conference of Committee Chairs.
  5. Disputes over competence may be resolved through procedures involving associated committees or with joint committee meetings and votes.
  6. An associated committee works on the proposal simultaneously with the responsible committee, under a jointly agreed timetable. The rapporteurs of both identify which areas of text fall within their exclusive or joint competence and agree precisely how they will cooperate. The rapporteurs keep each other informed and should mutually agree the texts they propose to the committees and their position regarding amendments. The committee responsible should accept amendments from an associated committee without a vote if they concern matters falling within the exclusive competence of the associated committee.
  7. If there is disagreement between a responsible and associated committee about competence, the Conference of Presidents may rule on which competence lies where, or it may opt for joint committee meetings if it falls equally within the competence of both.
  8. In the event of joint committee meetings, the rapporteurs concerned draw up a single draft report, which is examined and voted on by the committees involved at jointly chaired joint meetings.
  9. The parliamentary committee responsible first verifies the legal basis of the proposal. It can request the opinion of the committee responsible for legal affairs, which can also decide to check the legal basis on its own initiative.
  10. If the proposal has financial implications, the committee responsible must also verify that it is compatible with the multiannual financial framework, i.e. that there are sufficient financial resources. The committee responsible for budgetary issues can also do such a check on its own initiative.
  11. The committee responsible, a political group, or at least 40 MEPs can object if they feel that the proposal or parts of it do not comply with the rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  12. Once a committee has been made responsible for the proposal, it appoints a rapporteur from among its members. In practice, coordinators representing the political groups decide which political group will handle the report. That group proposes a rapporteur from among its committee members or permanent substitutes.
  13. Rapporteurs may be chosen in advance on the basis of the Commission's annual legislative programme, allowing them to follow the proposal during its preparatory phase, before it is submitted to the Parliament.
  14. Other political groups may appoint a shadow rapporteur, who is responsible for preparing the group's position and monitoring the work of the rapporteur.
  15. The rapporteur guides the proposal through the various stages of the procedure, advising the committee (during consideration at committee stage) and the Parliament as a whole (at plenary stage) on the general approach.
  16. The rapporteur is responsible for presenting a draft report to committee, including his/her amendments to the Commission proposal.
  17. The parliamentary committee usually meets several times to examine the draft report.
  18. On controversial or "technical" dossiers, it is not unusual to organise hearings with experts or to commission studies or impact assessments.
  19. During committee debates, the Commission may defend its proposal and answer questions from members of the committee.
  20. As the Council receives and starts working on the Commission proposal at the same time as the Parliament, the committee customarily asks the Commission and Council to keep it informed of the progress of the proposal in the Council and its working parties.
  21. Associated and opinion-giving committees submit their opinions to the lead committee.
  22. Any MEP can table amendments by the deadline set by the committee responsible. All amendments are subject to a vote in the responsible committee, which votes by simple majority.
  23. Before the responsible committee takes a final vote on a proposal for a legislative act, it asks the Commission to state its position on all amendments adopted by the committee, and requests a comment from the Council. If the Commission is not in a position to make a statement or is not prepared to accept all the amendments adopted by committee, the committee may postpone the final vote.
  24. Once the report is adopted in committee, it is placed on the plenary agenda.
  25. A political group or at least 40 members may table amendments to the report and put them to a plenary vote. As a general rule, the deadline for tabling new amendments in plenary is noon on the Wednesday of the week preceding the session.
  26. The plenary discusses the legislative proposal on the basis of the report drawn up by the responsible committee, including any proposed amendments, a draft legislative resolution and, if appropriate, an explanatory statement by the rapporteur.
  27. In the course of the plenary debate ahead of the vote, the Commissioner attending announces and explains the Commission's position on any amendments tabled. The Commission's position on the EP's amendments is prepared by the Directorate-General in charge of the dossier and approved by the College of Commissioners. In practice, it is prepared by the Inter-institutional relations group (GRI), comprising members of the Commission cabinets responsible for inter-institutional relations, and subsequently ratified by the College.
  28. The Parliament first votes on amendments to the Commission proposal. Then it votes on the proposal, amended or not, followed by a vote on amendments to the draft legislative resolution. Finally, Parliament votes on the draft legislative resolution as a whole. The legislative resolution contains only a statement saying whether Parliament approves or rejects the proposal or amends it.
  29. All the votes listed above are by simple majority, i.e. a majority of votes cast.
  30. If Parliament does not adopt the legislative resolution, the proposal is referred back to the committee responsible.
  31. Parliament can:
    • reject the proposal as a whole
    • approve the proposal without amendments
    • approve it subject to amendments
  32. If the Commission's proposal, as amended, fails to secure a majority of votes cast, or if a motion for the rejection of the proposal, tabled by the committee responsible, or by at least 40 members, is adopted, Parliament's President will suspend the vote on the legislative resolution (normally taken following the final vote on the proposal as amended) and will request the Commission withdraw its proposal. If the Commission does so, the legislative procedure stops. If the Commission refuses, the matter is referred back to the parliamentary committee.
  33. If the Commission proposal as a whole is approved, but on the basis of amendments, the vote on the draft legislative resolution is postponed until the Commission states its position on each of the amendments. If the Commission is not in a position to make such a statement at the end of Parliament's vote on its proposal, it informs the President or the committee responsible when it expects to be able to make a statement and the proposal is placed on the draft agenda of the first plenary session following that date.
  34. If the Commission says it does not intend to adopt all Parliament's amendments, the rapporteur or chair of the committee responsible makes a formal proposal to Parliament on whether the vote on the draft legislative resolution should proceed. Before making the proposal, they may ask the President to suspend consideration of the item. If Parliament decides to postpone the vote, the matter is referred back to the committee responsible, for reconsideration. Only amendments tabled by the committee responsible and seeking to reach a compromise with the Commission will then be admissible.
  35. The text of the proposal as approved by Parliament and the accompanying resolution are forwarded to the Council and the Commission by the President as Parliament's position.
  36. Once Parliament has concluded its 1st reading the Commission may adopt a 'modified proposal' incorporating a number of Parliament's amendments.
  37. The Treaty does not set any time limit for Parliament's 1st reading.

NB: Since the Amsterdam treaty, it has been possible to conclude an ordinary legislative procedure at 1st reading. In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards agreements at 1st reading.

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#3 1st reading in Council 

Complete text 
Preparatory work in Council runs in parallel with the 1st reading in Parliament, but Council may only formally conduct its 1st reading based on Parliament's position. Council can: accept the EP position, in which case the legislative act is adopted; or adopt changes to Parliament's position, leading to a Council's 1st reading position, which is sent to Parliament for a 2nd reading.
  1. The Commission proposal is sent to the Council at the same time it goes to the European Parliament.
  2. Preparatory work in Council thus runs in parallel with the European Parliament, but Council may only adopt its position after Parliament has acted.
  3. The institutions are encouraged to exchange information on the progress and timetable of negotiations in the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure.
  4. As with Parliament, there is no time limit for the Council 1st reading.
  5. Council decisions are prepared within specific working parties made up of representatives of the member states and chaired by the representative of the country holding the six-monthly rotating presidency, assisted by the Council's secretariat. The working parties report to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper, Part I or II), which prepares every Council decision taken at ministerial level.
  6. Prior to reaching a 1st reading position, Council can adopt two intermediate steps:
    1. The Council may reach agreement in principle - commonly termed a general approach - before the European Parliament delivers its position. This is rare and happens mainly in cases where there is a strong impetus to reach a 1st reading agreement.
    2. More often, the Council first reaches a "political agreement", laying down the broad outline of its proposed 1st reading position. The details of this agreement are then finalised by the working party, verified by lawyer linguists (legal experts for each language who supervise the legal and linguistic correctness of the texts) and formally adopted as a 1st reading position by the Council at a subsequent meeting.
    In both cases, the Council only finalises its position after receiving Parliament's 1st reading amendments and the Commission's resulting amended proposal.
  7. A 1st reading position may be adopted without debate where agreement has been reached at a preparatory stage ("A" item on the agenda) or with debate ("B" item) or, in exceptional cases, by written procedure. In the first two instances, deliberations are public.
  8. Council decides by qualified majority except on taxation, social security, foreign policy, defence and operational police cooperation, which require unanimity.
  9. There are four possible scenarios for Council's 1st reading:
    1. If Parliament has not adopted any amendments and Council does not wish to change the Commission's proposal, it can approve the act by qualified majority. The act is then adopted.
    2. If Parliament has introduced amendments, adoption of the act is dependent on Council approving all the amendments by qualified majority, if the Commission has incorporated them into its amended proposal, or by unanimity if it has not. If Council approves all Parliament's amendments, the act is adopted.
    Once the act is adopted, it is submitted for the signature of the Presidents and Secretaries-General of Parliament and Council, and is published in the Official Journal.
    1. While it is not explicitly laid down in the Treaty, it is widely accepted that acting by a qualified majority the Council may reject the Commission proposal as a whole.

      The Commission may decide at any time during the 1st reading to withdraw or alter its proposal.
    2. If Council does not adopt all Parliament's amendments or wants to introduce its own changes, it adopts a 1st reading position.
  10. The text of the 1st reading position is sent to the Parliament, together with a statement of reasons, and any statements made by the Council and/or the Commission for the Council's minutes. The Commission informs Parliament of its position.
  11. Parliament is generally notified of Council´s 1st reading position at the plenary session following its formal adoption. The time limits laid down by the Treaty for the subsequent stages of the procedure begin after Parliament announces the receipt of Council´s 1st reading position in plenary (the day after the announcement, which usually takes place on Thursday).
  12. Wherever possible, informal contacts take place in the period between the political agreement and the formal notification of Council´s 1st reading position, with a view to facilitating a (early) 2nd reading agreement (also known as "negotiated 1st reading position").

NB: When the co-legislators are aiming for a 1st reading agreement they often organise informal meetings attended by representatives of the Parliament (rapporteur and, where appropriate, shadow rapporteurs), the Council (chair of the working party and/or Coreper), and the Commission (department responsible for the dossier and the Commission's Secretariat-General), so-called "trilogues".

The aim is to ensure that the Parliament amendments adopted in plenary are acceptable to Council. The Commission frequently plays a mediating and editorial role in respect of these compromise texts.

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#4 2nd reading in European Parliament 

Complete text 
The European Parliament has 3 (with a possible extension to 4) months to examine Council's position. The Council position goes first to the responsible committee, which prepares a recommendation for Parliament's 2nd reading. Plenary votes on the recommendation including possible albeit limited amendments. There are 4 possible outcomes to a 2nd reading: Parliament approves Council's position and the act is adopted; Parliament fails to take a decision within the time limit, in which case the act is adopted as amended by Council in its 1st reading; Parliament rejects Council's 1st reading position, in which case the act is not adopted and the procedure is ended; Parliament proposes amendments to Council's 1st reading position and forwards its position to Council for a 2nd reading.
  1. If Council does not agree with the European Parliament's 1st reading position, it adopts a Council 1st reading position, which is forwarded to Parliament. Parliament also receives a Commission communication explaining its position on the Council's position and why it supports or opposes it.
  2. The documentation received by Parliament comprises:
    • Council 1st reading position
    • all declarations made in the Council minutes when the position was adopted
    • the reasons which led the Council to adopt its position
    • Commission's position
  3. Upon receipt and after verification of the documentation, the President makes an announcement in plenary, acknowledging receipt of the Council's 1st reading position and the Commission's communication about it. The file is automatically forwarded to the committee responsible, which is the same as in 1st reading. Documents are available in all official languages.
  4. Unlike the 1st reading, the 2nd reading is subject to strict time limits. Parliament must act within 3 months (which the EP or Council can request is extended to 4). While Parliament considers as starting date the announcement of Council´s 1st reading position in plenary, Council considers that the timetable starts as of the date of receipt of the Council 1st reading position, in principle the Monday of the plenary week.
  5. The 2nd reading in committee is broadly similar to the 1st reading procedure, but the text to be amended is the Council's 1st reading position rather than the Commission proposal. Only the committee responsible prepares a report, there are no opinions from other committees.
  6. Council may be invited to present its position at the first meeting of the committee responsible.
  7. The rapporteur (usually the same MEP who drew up the 1st reading report) draws up a draft 'recommendation', i.e. a 2nd-reading report.
  8. The draft recommendation includes amendments proposed by the rapporteur. Only full or permanent substitute members of the committee responsible may table additional amendments.
  9. There are restrictions on 2nd reading amendments in committee and plenary. They are admissible only if they seek:
    1. to wholly or partly restore Parliament's 1st reading position
    2. to reach a compromise between Parliament and Council
    3. to amend part of the Council text that was not included in, or differs in content from, the original Commission proposal
    4. to take account of a new fact or legal situation that has arisen since the 1st reading.
  10. The chair of the committee responsible rules on the admissibility of amendments.
  11. If EP elections have taken place since the 1st reading, the President may decide that the restrictions do not apply.
  12. Before voting, the committee may request the chair and the rapporteur discuss the amendments in committee in the presence of a Council representative and the Commissioner responsible. Following the discussion, the rapporteur may table compromise amendments.
  13. The committee decides on the amendments and the recommendation for 2nd reading by simple majority.
  14. Following the committee vote, the recommendation goes to plenary.
  15. The recommendation proposes the approval, amendment or rejection of the Council position at 1st reading and includes a short justification for the proposed decision.
  16. The Council position and committee's 2nd reading recommendation are automatically put on the draft plenary agenda for the Wednesday before the deadline for Parliament's 2nd reading, but it can be dealt with in an earlier plenary session.
  17. Amendments may be tabled for the plenary by the committee responsible, a political group or at least 40 individual members.
  18. The same restrictions apply to amendments in plenary as at the committee stage. The Parliament's President rules on the admissibility of amendments tabled for plenary. The President's decision is final.
  19. Before voting on any amendments in plenary, the President may ask the Commission to indicate whether or not it would be willing to accept them.
  20. In such cases, the Commissioner responsible explains the Commission's position on the amendments during the plenary debate preceding the vote. As with the 1st reading, the Commission's position is prepared by the Inter-institutional relations group and subsequently ratified by the Commissioners.
  21. The Council may also be invited to comment.
  22. Possible results of the 2nd reading include:
    1. rejection of the 1st reading Council position
    2. no Parliament's vote within the time limit
    3. approval of Council's 1st reading position without amendment (early 2nd reading agreement)
    4. Parliament proposes amendments to the Council's 1st reading position
  23. The committee responsible, a political group or at least 40 members can propose rejecting the Council's position. The proposal must be adopted by a majority of the component members of the European Parliament - i.e. absolute majority. Any such proposal is voted on before voting proceeds on amendments.
  24. Rejection of the Council's 1st reading position ends the legislative procedure: this can only be re-launched by a new Commission proposal. As of January 2015, this has only happened once - in July 2005 on the software patents directive (directive on the patentability of computer implemented inventions). The Council position was rejected by an overwhelming majority of MEPs (648 to 14 with 18 abstentions), which killed the proposal. This case raised the question as to whether the Commission can withdraw a proposal that has passed the 1st reading. While the Commission maintains its right to withdraw a proposal at any stage, Parliament and Council argue that once Council has adopted its 1st reading position it is that text and not the Commission proposal that forms the basis for the rest of the procedure; and consequently the Commission cannot withdraw a text, over which it no longer exercises 'ownership'.
  25. If Parliament fails to take a decision by the deadline, the act is deemed to have been adopted in accordance with the Council's 1st reading position.
  26. If Parliament approves the Council's 1st reading position without amendment, a simple majority of the members voting is required.
  27. When adopted, the legislative act is submitted for signature by the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the Parliament and Council and is published in the Official Journal.
  28. Lastly, the Parliament might propose amendments to the Council's 1st reading position. They must fulfil the 2nd reading criteria and each must be approved by an absolute majority of Parliament's component members.
  29. The outcome of the vote is notified to the Council and the Commission.
  30. The Treaty specifically requires the Commission to deliver a written opinion on Parliament's amendments and this determines the type of vote necessary in the Council: if, for instance, the Council wishes to adopt a Parliament amendment on which the Commission has delivered a negative opinion, it must do so unanimously.
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#5 2nd reading in Council 

Complete text 
Council has 3 (with a possible extension to 4) months to examine Parliament's 2nd reading position. It is also informed about the European Commission's position on Parliament's 2nd reading amendments. The Council either approves all Parliament's amendments, in which case the legislative act is adopted, or it does not approve all the amendments. In the latter case, the President of the Council, in agreement with the Parliament President, convenes a meeting of the Conciliation Committee.
  1. Upon official receipt of the European Parliament's 2nd reading amendments, in all official languages, the Council's 2nd reading clock starts to tick.
  2. The Council now has 3 months (or in some cases 4) to act.
  3. The Council may accept or reject Parliament's amendments. Before deciding, it receives the Commission's opinion about them.
  4. The procedure is similar to the preparation of the Council's 1st reading position: the competent working party prepares a position which is submitted to Coreper and adopted by the Council.
  5. In order successfully to conclude negotiations, Parliament and Council start 2nd reading negotiations when the proposal is with the Parliament, particularly in cases where a 2nd reading agreement appears possible.
  6. These informal contacts may be in the form of bilateral meetings between representatives of the Parliament and the Presidency of the Council or, as is more often the case, informal tripartite meetings including the Commission. Because of the ad-hoc nature of such contacts, no "standard" format of representation has been established on paper but, as a general rule, they involve the Parliament rapporteur (accompanied where necessary by shadow rapporteurs from other political groups) and the chair of the relevant Council working party assisted by the Council administration. The Commission is usually represented by the officials in charge of the dossier, assisted by the Commission's Secretariat-General and Legal Service.
  7. The purpose of these contacts is to reach agreement on a package of amendments acceptable to Council and Parliament. The Commission's opinion is also important, because it determines the type of Council vote needed on Parliament amendments.
  8. Where negotiations are successful, the Coreper chair will send a letter to the chair of the parliamentary committee responsible, in which the Council undertakes to approve the Parliament's amendments if they are in line with the compromise jointly identified by Council and Parliament.
  9. The compromise amendments are then tabled either in committee or, more frequently, just before the plenary session. They are generally co-signed on behalf of their groups by the rapporteur and as many shadow rapporteurs as are party to the agreement, in order to provide maximum assurance as to the necessary majority being achieved. The political groups concerned within the Parliament coordinate their votes to favour adoption of the amendments negotiated with the Council.
  10. The number of votes needed in Council's 2nd reading depends on the Commission's opinion on Parliament's amendments. Amendments on which the Commission gives a positive opinion can be approved by qualified majority in Council. Amendments on which the Commission has a negative opinion require unanimous approval by the Council.
  11. If all Parliament's 2nd reading amendments are approved by Council, the legislative act is considered adopted. The legislative text is signed by the Presidents and Secretaries General of the European Parliament and of the Council and published in the Official Journal.
  12. If Council does not approve all of Parliament's amendments, the President of the Council in agreement with the President of the European Parliament convenes a meeting of the Conciliation Committee within 6 weeks (with a possible extension of 2 weeks) of the Council's rejection.
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#6 Conciliation 

Complete text 
Within 6 (with a possible extension to 8) weeks of the Council's refusal to adopt Parliament's 2nd reading position, the Presidents of the Council and European Parliament convene the Conciliation Committee, with equal numbers of MEPs and Council representatives. The Conciliation Committee has 6 weeks (with a possible extension to 8) to decide on a joint text based on the 2nd reading positions of Parliament and Council. If the Conciliation Committee does not approve a joint text, the proposed legislative act falls and the procedure is ended. If the Conciliation Committee approves a joint text, the text is forwarded for a 3rd reading to the European Parliament and the Council.
  1. If the Council does not approve all Parliament's amendments at 2nd reading, a Conciliation Committee is convened.
  2. In the framework of the Conciliation Committee the two co-legislators - European Parliament and Council - negotiate directly with the aim of reaching an agreement in the form of a joint text.
  3. The Conciliation Committee must be convened within 6 weeks (or 8, if an extension has been agreed) of the conclusion of the Council's 2nd reading and official notification to Parliament that it will not accept Parliament's 2nd reading amendments.
  4. Each legislative proposal requiring conciliation is discussed separately within a dedicated Conciliation Committee.
  5. The Conciliation Committee is convened by the President of the Council with the agreement of the President of the Parliament. It is considered to have been convened when its first meeting takes place.
  6. From the day of the first meeting, it has 6 weeks (with a possible maximum extension of 2 weeks on the initiative of Parliament or Council and by common accord between them) to negotiate and approve a joint text.
  7. Before the committee officially begins its work, preparatory trilogues and technical meetings take place once it is clear that Council will be unable to accept Parliament's 2nd reading amendments. Conciliation Committee meetings may also be interrupted by trilogue negotiations.
  8. Trilogues and technical meetings bring together small teams of negotiators from Parliament, Council and Commission, each of which reports to their delegation within the Conciliation Committee.
  9. In trilogues, Parliament is represented by the chair of the delegation to the Conciliation Committee, the chair of the responsible parliamentary committee and the rapporteur, assisted by members of the Parliament's conciliation secretariat and, if necessary, a member of the legal service.
  10. The Council is represented by the deputy or permanent representative (chair of Coreper I or II respectively) of the member state holding the Presidency, who is assisted by members of the Council's secretariat, including its legal service.
  11. The European Commission is represented by the Director-General of the department in charge of the dossier, assisted by experts, its legal service and the administration.
  12. Informal technical trilogues are usually attended by experts and civil servants from the three institutions.
  13. Negotiations in trilogue are based on a 'four-column working document' setting out the positions of Parliament and Council:
    1. Council's 1st reading position
    2. Parliament's 2nd reading amendments
    3. Council's position on Parliament's amendments (acceptance, rejection, or possible compromise text)
    4. the Parliament delegation's position on the Council's proposals.
  14. In the course of negotiations, the two delegations seek compromises on amendments where there are outstanding differences. To this end, additional detailed drafting work may be requested from small working parties at either a political or technical level.
  15. The results of each trilogue are presented by the respective negotiators for the approval of the Parliament and Council delegations: where necessary, further trilogues or informal meetings are arranged.
  16. The Conciliation Committee itself consists of two delegations of equal size: one from the European Parliament and one from the Council.
    1. The Council delegation is composed of one representative from each member state (ministers, or more usually, member states' Coreper representatives). The Council delegation is chaired by the minister presiding over the Council in charge of the dossier. It acts by a qualified majority (except for dossiers in respect of which the Treaty requires unanimity).
    2. The Parliament delegation is composed of an equal number of MEPs - 28 - plus 28 substitutes (who can only vote if a member of their political group is absent). Three EP vice-presidents are permanent members of the Conciliation Committee and take turns to co-chair it. The other 25 MEPs in the delegation are appointed by the political groups, in proportion to the size of each group within Parliament. The majority are usually drawn from the parliamentary committee responsible for the dossier. In most cases, the delegation tries to work by consensus. In the case of a vote, the delegation's decisions are taken by a majority of its component members (i.e. currently 15 votes). More information about Parliament's delegation to the Conciliation Committee can be found below.
    3. The Commission, represented in principle by the Commissioner responsible for the dossier, also takes part in the Conciliation Committee's proceedings with a view to reconciling the positions of Parliament and Council.
  17. As with trilogues, the main working tool is the joint four column working document (see point 13), translated into all official languages. The committee also has the Commission proposal and its opinion on Parliament's 2nd reading amendments.
  18. The Conciliation Committee is chaired jointly by a vice-president of the Parliament and a minister of the member state holding the Presidency. It meets alternately at the premises of the Parliament and the Council, mostly in Brussels.
  19. Most Conciliation Committee meetings start with a trilogue where the 2 co-legislators clarify their positions, based on the mandates of their respective institutions. The Commission serves as a facilitator.
  20. The institution which hosts the first meeting of the Conciliation Committee is responsible for editing the joint text and the forwarding letter, and, after definitive adoption of the legislative act by Parliament and Council, for the signing of the act by the Presidents of the two institutions and for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
  21. If the Parliament and Council delegations fail to reach an agreement in the Conciliation Committee, the whole proposal does not go through. A new procedure can only be based on a new Commission proposal. As of January 2015, there had been only four cases where the Conciliation Committee failed to reach agreement on a joint text, namely “Voice telephony” (1994), “Securities Committee” (1998), "Working Time Directive" (2009) and "Novel Foods Regulation" (2011).
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2004/0209(COD)&l=en
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?lang=en&reference=2008/0002(COD)
  22. If the Parliament and Council delegations reach a compromise, the Conciliation Committee must approve a "joint text". The Council delegation approves it by a qualified majority (or unanimity in cases stipulated by the Treaty) while the Parliament delegation votes by a simple majority of its component members.
  23. As soon as agreement on a joint text has been reached within the Conciliation Committee (or subsequently in an exchange of letters between the co-chairs of the Committee), the General Secretariat of the institution in which the first meeting was held, prepares the draft legislative text, in principle in the language used during negotiations. A provisional version is posted on the Parliament's website as soon as possible after the end of negotiations at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/code/default_en.htm.
  24. After legal/linguistic revision, the document is made available in all official EU languages.
  25. The co-chairs of the Conciliation Committee send the joint text, together with a covering letter, to Parliament's President and the President-in-office of the Council. Any declarations by the institutions are annexed to this letter. The letter is also addressed, for information, to the Commission representative who took part in the Conciliation Committee.
  26. The agreement reached in the Conciliation Committee has to be confirmed by both the full Parliament and the Council. The two institutions vote separately on the joint text as it stands, without any possibility of further amending it.

Parliament's delegation in Conciliation

  1. The EP is represented in the conciliation procedure by a delegation consisting of a number of MEPs equal to the number of members of the Council. The delegation is appointed separately for each conciliation procedure. Its task is to represent the whole Parliament in negotiations with the Council.
  2. At the beginning of each legislature, or if major changes in the overall political composition of the European Parliament occur during the legislature, the Conference of Presidents determines the political composition of delegations to the Conciliation Committee in line with the relative strength of the political groups.
  3. On the basis of the Parliament's political composition after the May 2014 elections Parliament delegations to the Conciliation Committee are composed of:
    • EPP: 9 members
    • S&D: 8 members
    • ECR: 3 members
    • ALDE: 2 members
    • GUE/NGL: 2 members
    • Greens: 2 members
    • EFDD: 2 members
  4. The three vice-presidents with special responsibility for conciliation are included in each delegation and in the quota of members from each political group. Each delegation is chaired by one of the three: they decide among themselves who will be responsible for which conciliation procedure and consequently who will chair which delegation. The rapporteur(s) and chair of the parliamentary committee responsible are also ex officio members of the delegation, included in the quota of their political group.
  5. The remaining members of the delegation are appointed by each political group for a specific conciliation procedure. Most of them are from the committee responsible or from opinion-giving committees. Where the procedure with associated committees applies, the Parliament delegation must include the rapporteur of any associated committee. The political groups must also appoint an equal number of substitute members, who can take an active part in the proceedings of the delegation, but can vote only if they replace a full member.

Organisation of the delegation

  1. The Parliament delegation will hold a constituent meeting to give a mandate to the negotiating team - normally the vice-president chairing the delegation, the chair of the committee responsible and the rapporteur(s) - so that trilogue meetings can begin.
  2. The Commission is present at this and all subsequent Parliament delegation meetings. Its representatives are expected to present and explain the Commission's opinion on Parliament's 2nd reading amendments and possibly also to provide information about ongoing developments in the Council of which they are aware.
  3. Members of the delegation monitor the progress of the conciliation procedure on an ongoing basis at successive meetings.
  4. The main aim of the delegation meetings is to update the mandate of the negotiating team and discuss any compromise texts. Agreement to certain amendments or compromise proposals is given, subject to overall agreement. If outstanding questions remain, the delegation gives instructions to the negotiating team on how to pursue negotiations with the Council. The Parliament delegation also considers procedural issues, for instance, whether another trilogue meeting should be arranged, or whether the Conciliation Committee can be convened and, if so, when.
  5. At the end of the procedure, the delegation formally approves or rejects the agreement reached in conciliation. The delegation aims to act by consensus. However, if a vote is needed, approval requires the support of an absolute majority of members (at least 15 of a possible 28).
  6. The delegation is assisted by a dedicated service of Parliament's administration, the Conciliation and Codecision Secretariat, and by specialised services: e.g. legal service, lawyer-linguists and press service.
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#73rd reading in European Parliament and Council 

Complete text 
The joint text is sent simultaneously to Parliament and Council for approval. There is no specific order in which the co-legislators must decide. They have 6 (or 8 if jointly agreed) weeks to decide and they cannot modify the text. In Parliament, the vote on the joint text is preceded by a debate in plenary. If Parliament and Council approve the joint text, the legislative proposal is adopted. If one or both rejects it, or does not respond in time, the legislation falls and the procedure is ended. It can only be restarted with a new proposal from the Commission.
  1. If the Conciliation Committee approves the joint text, it must be approved by the full European Parliament and the Council in 3rd readings. The two institutions vote separately on the joint text, There is no possibility to further amend it
  2. Following a successful conclusion to the conciliation procedure, a draft joint text is prepared on the basis of the joint working document and any modifications agreed in conciliation. It is first established in one language and subsequently translated into the other official languages. The original language version of the draft joint text is sent to the members of the delegation.
  3. The finalised joint text, which has undergone legal-linguistic verification in both Parliament and Council, is formally forwarded by the co-chairs of the Conciliation Committee to the President of the Parliament and the President-in-office of the Council. Any declarations by the institutions are annexed to their letter.
  4. The 3rd reading is conducted over a period of 6 weeks from the date of this letter. The time-limit may be extended by a maximum of 2 weeks on the initiative of the Parliament or Council and by common accord between them.

Parliament

  1. During the 6-week (possibly extended to 8) period, members of the European Parliament delegation receive the final joint text in their respective languages, along with a report outlining the various stages and results of the conciliation procedure, including the record of the vote by the delegation on the conclusion of the conciliation procedure. The final joint text, the report drawn-up by the rapporteur and the delegation chair, the covering letter, and any institutional declarations are sent to Parliament's plenary services. At this point, the different language versions of the agreement are published on the Parliament's website.
  2. The vote on the joint text is preceded by a debate in plenary on the outcome of the negotiations and the agreement reached (or not reached) with Council. The debate normally begins with statements by the vice-president who chaired the delegation and the rapporteur. The plenary then votes on the joint text. Approval is by a simple majority of votes cast; otherwise the joint text is rejected.
  3. As of January 2015, the Parliament has rejected joint texts three times:

Council

  1. The joint text also has to be approved by the Council, which generally prefers to vote after Parliament's 3rd reading. The Council decides by qualified majority.
  2. In practice, approval of the joint text by the Council does not pose a problem, since the Council's delegation within the Conciliation Committee is made up of one representative per member state. To date, the Council has never rejected an agreement reached in conciliation.
  3. If either institution fails to approve the joint text, the legislative procedure comes to an end: it can only be re-started by a new proposal from the Commission.
  4. If the text is adopted by both Parliament and Council, it is submitted for signature by the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the European Parliament and Council, after which it is published in the Official Journal.
 
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Treaty 

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union : Article 294 (ex Article 251 TEC)

  1. Where reference is made in the Treaties to the ordinary legislative procedure for the adoption of an act, the following procedure shall apply.
  2. The Commission shall submit a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council.

First reading

  1. The European Parliament shall adopt its position at first reading and communicate it to the Council.
  2. If the Council approves the European Parliament's position, the act concerned shall be adopted in the wording which corresponds to the position of the European Parliament.
  3. If the Council does not approve the European Parliament's position, it shall adopt its position at first reading and communicate it to the European Parliament.
  4. The Council shall inform the European Parliament fully of the reasons which led it to adopt its position at first reading. The Commission shall inform the European Parliament fully of its position.

Second reading

  1. If, within three months of such communication, the European Parliament:
    1. approves the Council's position at first reading or has not taken a decision, the act concerned shall be deemed to have been adopted in the wording which corresponds to the position of the Council;
    2. rejects, by a majority of its component members, the Council's position at first reading, the proposed act shall be deemed not to have been adopted;
    3. proposes, by a majority of its component members, amendments to the Council's position at first reading, the text thus amended shall be forwarded to the Council and to the Commission, which shall deliver an opinion on those amendments.
  2. If, within three months of receiving the European Parliament's amendments, the Council, acting by a qualified majority:
    1. approves all those amendments, the act in question shall be deemed to have been adopted;
    2. does not approve all the amendments, the President of the Council, in agreement with the President of the European Parliament, shall within six weeks convene a meeting of the Conciliation Committee.
  3. The Council shall act unanimously on the amendments on which the Commission has delivered a negative opinion.

Conciliation

  1. The Conciliation Committee, which shall be composed of the members of the Council or their representatives and an equal number of members representing the European Parliament, shall have the task of reaching agreement on a joint text, by a qualified majority of the members of the Council or their representatives and by a majority of the members representing the European Parliament within six weeks of its being convened, on the basis of the positions of the European Parliament and the Council at second reading.
  2. The Commission shall take part in the Conciliation Committee's proceedings and shall take all necessary initiatives with a view to reconciling the positions of the European Parliament and the Council.
  3. If, within six weeks of its being convened, the Conciliation Committee does not approve the joint text, the proposed act shall be deemed not to have been adopted.

Third reading

  1. If, within that period, the Conciliation Committee approves a joint text, the European Parliament, acting by a majority of the votes cast, and the Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall each have a period of six weeks from that approval in which to adopt the act in question in accordance with the joint text. If they fail to do so, the proposed act shall be deemed not to have been adopted.
  2. The periods of three months and six weeks referred to in this Article shall be extended by a maximum of one month and two weeks respectively at the initiative of the European Parliament or the Council.

Special provisions

  1. Where, in the cases provided for in the Treaties, a legislative act is submitted to the ordinary legislative procedure on the initiative of a group of Member States, on a recommendation by the European Central Bank, or at the request of the Court of Justice, paragraph 2, the second sentence of paragraph 6, and paragraph 9 shall not apply.

In such cases, the European Parliament and the Council shall communicate the proposed act to the Commission with their positions at first and second readings. The European Parliament or the Council may request the opinion of the Commission throughout the procedure, which the Commission may also deliver on its own initiative. It may also, if it deems it necessary, take part in the Conciliation Committee in accordance with paragraph 11.


EN C 326/174 Official Journal of the European Union 26.10.2012

 
This article in PDF format  --> Areas where the ordinary legislative procedure applies (PDF) Guide to the ordinary legislative procedure, Council, 2010  

Glossary 

A-item 

Council agendas are divided into A and B items. A-items are those on which agreement has been reached and which can be adopted without debate. This does not exclude any Council or Commission member expressing an opinion when the item is put to the vote.

Absolute majority (in the European Parliament) 

An absolute majority is the majority of all members of the European Parliament (including those absent or not voting). In its present configuration with 751 MEPs, the threshold for an absolute majority is 376 votes.

Associated committee 

If a matter to be discussed by Parliament falls almost equally within the competence of two or more committees, or parts of the issue fall within the competence of two or more committees, one committee is made the responsible committee and the other(s) associated committee(s). Responsible and associated committee work within a jointly agreed timetable, rapporteurs keep each other informed and try to agree on the texts to be proposed to their committees and on their position regarding amendments. They divide areas of competence.

B-item 

Council agendas are divided into A and B items. B-items are those on which there is no agreement and on which there will be a debate. They are often politically sensitive issues.

Citizens´ initiative 

The citizens' initiative allows 1 million citizens from at least a quarter of EU member states to ask the European Commission to come up with proposals for new laws in fields in which it has competence.

Co-decision 

Term previously used for what is now the ordinary legislative procedure. Still widely used unofficially.

College of Commissioners 

The College is composed of 28 European commissioners.

Commissioner 

The European Commission is made up of commissioners, each of whom is assigned responsibility for a specific policy field by the President of the Commission. Currently, there are 28: 1 from each member state.

Committee in the European Parliament 

Parliament's 20 permanent committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals, which are then voted by the EP as a whole during plenary sessions. The political make-up of the committees reflects that of Parliament. The EP can set up sub-committees, special temporary committees and formal committees of inquiry.

Committee of Regions 

The Committee of the Regions is an EU consultative body with 353 members, representing local and regional authorities. It must be consulted during EU decision-making in the fields of: economic and social cohesion, trans-European infrastructure networks, health, education and culture, employment policy, social policy, the environment, vocational training and transport.

Conciliation 

Conciliation is the third and final phase of the ordinary legislative procedure. It takes place when Parliament and Council can't reach agreement on a legislative proposal during the first two readings. Delegations from Council and Parliament look for a compromise acceptable to both.

Conciliation committee 

The Conciliation Committee sits during the conciliation phase of the ordinary legislative procedure. It is composed of the same number of member state representatives and MEPs (currently 28/28). The committee is responsible for drawing up a joint text, which is put to the Council and Parliament for approval at third reading.

Conference of Committee Chairs 

Parliament's Conference of Committee Chairs is composed of the chairs of all standing and temporary committees. Its task is to improve cooperation between EP committees.

Conference of Presidents 

The Conference of Presidents organises Parliament's business and legislative planning, decides on the responsibilities and membership of committees and delegations and is responsible for relations with other EU institutions, national parliaments and non-EU countries. It includes the EP President and political groups chairs.

COREPER 

A Council committee made up of the permanent representatives of the member states, which prepares the work of the Council. COREPER I includes deputy ambassadors and COREPER II is made up of ambassadors.

Council of the European Union 

The Council of the European Union, generally known as the Council (previously the Council of Ministers), represents EU member state governments. Together with the European Parliament, the Council adopts legislation proposed by the European Commission. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

Court of Justice of the European Union 

The Court of Justice (ECJ) interprets EU law and makes sure it is applied uniformly in all member states. It also settles legal disputes between EU governments, individuals, companies or organisations and EU institutions. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

Decision 

A "decision" is binding on those to whom it is addressed (e.g. an EU country or an individual company) and is directly applicable.

Directive 

A "directive" is a legislative act setting a goal to be achieved by all EU countries, but leaving the method to each member state.

EU law 

EU law is divided into 'primary' and 'secondary' legislation. The treaties (primary legislation) are the basis for all EU action. Secondary legislation which includes regulations, directives and decisions are derived from the principles and objectives set out in the treaties.

European Central Bank 

The European Central Bank (ECB) manages the EU´s single currency - the euro - and tries to ensure price stability in the EU. It is responsible for framing and implementing the EU´s economic and monetary policy. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

European Commission 

The European Commission (EC) is the EU's executive body and represents the interests of the EU as a whole. It proposes new EU legislation and ensures its correct application. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

European Council 

The European Council brings together the Heads of State or Government of the EU member states. It makes decisions on broad political priorities and important initiatives. It does not wield legislative power. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

European Court of Auditors 

The European Court of Auditors audits EU finances. Its role is to improve EU financial management and report on the use of public funds. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

European Economic and Social Committee 

The European Economic and Social Committee is an EU consultative body with 353 members representing civil society, employers and workers. It must be consulted about EU decision-making on the economy and social policy.

European investment bank 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) supports projects in EU countries, and invests in future member and partner countries. It borrows money on capital markets rather than drawing on the EU budget and lends it on favourable terms to projects in line with EU policy objectives. It is owned by the 28 EU countries.

European Parliament 

Composed of 751 directly-elected MEPs from 28 countries, the European Parliament (EP) represents EU citizens. It acts as a co-legislator with the Council on nearly all EU law and holds the other EU institutions to account. It is one of the 7 EU institutions.

Green Paper 

Green Papers are published by the European Commission to stimulate discussion with interested parties at European level. They may lead to proposals for EU action outlined in White Papers.

Hearing 

A parliamentary committee can organise a hearing with experts if it is considered useful to its work. Hearings are usually public.

Inter-institutional relations group  

A Commission body responsible for coordinating political, legislative and administrative relations with the other institutions, in particular the European Parliament and Council. It brings together members from all the Commissioners' cabinets tasked with monitoring inter-institutional affairs. 

Joint committee meetings 

If a matter referred to Parliament cannot be given to one responsible committee because it is clearly within the competences of several, the respective rapporteurs draw up a single draft report, which is voted on jointly by the committees concerned, under the joint chairmanship of the committee chairs.

Member of the European Parliament 

Members of the European Parliament are directly elected for a five-year period. The 751 MEPs represent EU citizens.

Modified proposal (Commission proposal after first reading in EP) 

Between the first reading in Parliament and the first reading in Council, the Commission can alter its proposal to incorporate Parliament amendments which, in its view, improve the initial proposal and/or are likely to facilitate an agreement between Parliament and Council.

Official Journal 

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) contains EU legislation, information, notices and preliminary legislative work. It is published each working day in all of EU official languages. Only legal acts published in the OJ are binding.

Official language 

There are 24 official EU languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish. All EU law is published in all official languages.

Opinion (of a committee) 

The parliamentary committee in charge of an issue can ask other committees for their opinion. The chair and rapporteur of the committee giving an opinion are often invited to take part in meetings of the committee responsible. The opinion is often in the form of a written report.

Orange card 

When the Commission introduces a new legislative proposal, it is sent to national parliaments. If a majority of those bodies find the draft legislation does not comply with the subsidiarity principle, the Commission must re-examine the proposal. If it retains the proposal, the Commission must justify its position by means of a reasoned opinion. If Council and Parliament vote against the proposal during the first reading, it will be abandoned.

Ordinary legislative procedure 

Under the ordinary legislative procedure (formerly co-decision) the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union decide jointly on Commission proposals on a wide range of areas (for example, economic governance, immigration, energy, transport, the environment and consumer protection). Most EU law is now adopted this way.

Own initiative report 

In addition to legislative reports, parliamentary committees can produce "own initiative reports" on issues falling within their remit. These reports can be the means of raising awareness on a given issue.

Parliamentary questions 

Parliamentary questions are addressed by MEPs to other EU institutions and bodies. The recipient must provide an answer within a given timeframe. Parliamentary questions are a direct form of parliamentary scrutiny over other EU institutions and bodies.

Petitions to the European Parliament 

Any EU citizen, resident, or company, organisation or association with its headquarters in the EU, can petition Parliament on any subject falling within the EU's remit and which directly affects them. Such petitions give the European Parliament the opportunity of calling attention to any infringement of a European citizen's rights by a member state, local authority or other institution.

Plenary 

Parliament's plenary sessions take place 12 times a year in Strasbourg, with shorter plenaries in Brussels. Plenary brings together all 751 MEPs to debate and vote on EU legislation and adopt a position on political issues.

Political group 

MEPs are organised not by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 8 political groups in the European Parliament. Members may belong to only one political group. Some MEPs do not belong to a political group and are known as non-attached members.

President of the European Parliament 

The President of the European Parliament chairs plenary sessions, the Conference of the Presidents and the Bureau (made up of EP vice-presidents). He represents Parliament within the EU and internationally.

Proportionality 

According to the principle of proportionality, the involvement of EU institutions must be limited to what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties. 

Public consultation 

In public consultations the European Commission asks different stakeholders, such as public authorities, member state authorities, enterprises, (private) organisations, industry associations, citizens, to submit their views on intended legislation. It usually takes the form of a questionnaire with open and closed questions.

Qualified majority in Council 

A qualified majority in the Council corresponds to at least 55% of the Council members (member states), comprising a minimum of 16 countries, representing at least 65% of the EU population. A blocking minority may be formed by at least four Council members.

Rapporteur 

An MEP, appointed by the parliamentary committee responsible for handling a legislative proposal, who will steer the proposal through the EP and will prepare a report on it.

Regulation 

A "regulation" is a directly applicable form of EU law, which has binding legal force in all member states. National governments do not have to take action to implement EU regulations.

Report 

When a Commission proposal is forwarded to a parliamentary committee, the committee appoints a rapporteur to prepare a report, which usually consists of amendments to the proposal, short justifications and an explanatory statement, including a financial statement evaluating the financial impact of the proposal and its compatibility with the long-term budget.

Right of initiative 

The Commission's right of initiative empowers it to make proposals either because the Treaties explicitly provide for it or because the Commission considers it necessary. The Council and European Parliament may also ask the Commission to come up with proposals.

Secretary General of the Council 

The head of the General Secretariat of the Council, which assists the Council and the European Council. With the President of the Council, he signs all acts adopted jointly by Parliament and Council.

Secretary General of the European Parliament 

The Parliament's most senior official, responsible for Parliament's administration. He ensures the smooth running of parliamentary business under the leadership of the President and the Bureau. With the President, he verifies and signs all acts adopted jointly by Parliament and Council.

Shadow rapporteur 

The shadow rapporteur is an MEP who monitors a dossier or EP report on behalf of a political group other than that of the rapporteur.

Simple majority (in the European Parliament)  

A proposal adopted by simple majority is approved if the number of "yes" is higher than number of "no" votes.

Subsidiarity 

According to the subsidiarity principle, the EU should not act (except in areas that fall within its exclusive competence), unless EU action is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. Constant checks are made to verify that EU-level action is justified.

Treaties 

A treaty is a binding agreement between EU member countries. It sets out EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its member countries.

Treaty of Amsterdam 

The Treaty of Amsterdam came into force 1 May 1999. Its purpose was to reform the EU institutions in preparation for the arrival of future member countries. It amended, renumbered and consolidated the EU and EEC treaties and increased the use of co-decision.

Treaty of Lisbon 

The Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. It comprises the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU). The Lisbon Treaty gave more power to the EP, changed voting procedures in the Council, introduced the citizens' initiative, created a permanent president of the European Council, a new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, a new EU diplomatic service and clarified which powers belong to the EU, which to EU member states and which are shared. It changed the name of co-decision to the ordinary legislative procedure and increased the number of areas to which OLP is applied.

Treaty of Maastricht 

The Treaty of Maastricht, or the Treaty on the European Union, entered in force on 1 November 1993. It established the European Union (previously the EU was the European Communities), introduced co-decision and cooperation between EU governments on defence and justice and home affairs. It paved the way for Economic and Monetary Union and introduced elements of a political union (citizenship, a common foreign and internal affairs policy).

Treaty of Nice 

The Treaty of Nice entered into force on 1 February 2003. Its purpose was to reform the institutions so that the EU could function efficiently after reaching 25 member countries. It introduced methods for changing the composition of the Commission and redefining the voting system in the Council.

Treaty on the European Union TEU 

The Maastricht Treaty, in force since 1993, was amended and renamed the Treaty on the European Union by the Lisbon Treaty. It establishes the EU as legal entity, defines its values, aims, institutions and competences. It is one of the two principal treaties on which the EU is now based.

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union TFEU 

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), started life as the Treaty of Rome in 1958, but has since been much amended. It sets out the organisational and functional details of the EU. It is one of the two principal treaties on which the EU is now based

Trilogue 

Informal meetings attended by the European Parliament, Council and Commission. Their purpose is to get an agreement (on a package of amendments or on the wording of laws) acceptable to Council and Parliament.

Unanimity (in the Council) 

Unanimity requires all member states meeting within the Council to agree on a proposal before it can be adopted. Since the Lisbon Treaty only a restricted number of policies judged to be sensitive remain subject to unanimity voting.

White Paper 

Commission White Papers are documents containing proposals for EU action in a specific area. In some cases they follow a Green Paper published to launch a consultation process at European level. When a White Paper is favourably received by the Council, it can lead to an action programme for the Union in the area concerned.

Written declaration 

A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words on a matter falling within the European Union's sphere of activities, submitted by up to five MEPs. If signed by majority of the MEPs, it is forwarded to the institution to which it is addressed. MEPs can use written declarations to launch or relaunch a debate on a subject that comes within the EU's remit.

Yellow card 

When the Commission introduces a new legislative proposal, it is sent to national parliaments. If a third of them find the draft legislation does not comply with the subsidiarity principle, the Commission has to review the proposal and decide whether to keep, amend or withdraw it and to justify its decision.

 
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