The European Commission submits a legislative proposal to the European ParliamentActors with the right of initiative:
- European Investment Bank
- European Central Bank
- European Parliament
- European Parliament Citizens’ initiative
- A quarter of the member states
There is no time limit for the submission of a Commission proposal
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.
If you think the EU should initiate legislation, you have several options:
start a citizens' initiative - if you collect a minimum of 1 million signatures from EU citizens from at least seven member states, within a year, you can ask the European Commission to act in an area falling within its remit.
More on the citizens' initiative
lobby your MEP, who can
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.
request that a Parliamentary committee draws 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.
ask the Commission a question on the basis of which it might consider legislation.
More on questions
submit a petition to the European Parliament.
More on petitions
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
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.
The Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker (2014-2019) presented 396 proposals under the ordinary legislative procedure, which was fewer than the 584 proposals submitted by the second Commission headed by José Manuel Barroso (2009-2014), the 508 proposals of the first Barroso Commission (2004-2009) and the 432 proposals presented by the Romano Prodi Commission (1999-2004).
The lower number of proposals reflects the Juncker Commission’s conscious decision at the start of the term that it “would be doing less, but (...) more effectively”. At the same time, a significant number were broad, cross-policy proposals that had to be examined by two or more parliamentary committees.
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.
The ordinary legislative procedure starts with the submission of a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council.
The ordinary legislative procedure currently applies in 85 defined policy areas covering the majority of the EU's areas of competence.
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.
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.
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.
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
A Commission proposal may also come following a European citizens’ initiative.
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.).
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).
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
First reading in Parliament
During the first reading, the European Parliament examines the Commission's proposal and may approve it without modifications or amend it.
There is no time limit on Parliament's first reading
Committee and plenary votes are by a simple majority of votes cast
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 only be tabled by a full or substitute member of the committee concernedwhile amendments in plenary must be tabled by the committee responsible, a political group, or at least 36 MEPs (one-twentieth of Parliament’s component Members).
Committees sometimes organise public hearings, in which you may be able to participate.
Committee meetings and plenary are webstreamed live. You can follow them live
You can advise your MEP on which tabled amendments you think are advantageous or otherwise.
Parliament adopts a Position of the European Parliament at first reading.
During the 8th legislative term (2014-2019) the civil liberties committee was in charge of 13% of all ordinary legislative procedure files, followed by the economic and monetary affairs committee which was responsible for 12% of all files. The environment and transport committees each dealt with 11% of all files.
In comparison, in the 7th legislative term (2009-2014) 14% of co-decision/OLP files went to the environment committee, 11% to the economic and monetary committee and 10% to the international trade and civil liberties committees.
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 of the committee. 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 first reading position. Parliament can accept the proposal without any changes or make amendments. It can also reject the Commission proposal and request the Commission to withdraw it. Parliament's first reading position is forwarded to the Council.
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.
The choice of committee depends on the subject matter covered by the proposal.
Other committees might be offered the possibility to offer their opinion if the subject matter also concerns them.
If there is a conflict over competence, for example if 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.
Disputes over competence may be resolved through procedures involving associated committees or with joint committee meetings and votes.
An associated committee works on the proposal simultaneously with the committee responsible, under a jointly agreed timetable. The rapporteurs of both identify which areas of text fall within their exclusive or shared 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If the committee responsible, a political group, or at least 36 MEPs feel that the proposal or parts of it do not comply with EU fundamental rights, it can be referred to the committee responsible for the protection of fundamental rights (the civil liberties committee).
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.
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.
Other political groups may appoint a shadow rapporteur, who is responsible for preparing the group's position and monitoring the work of the rapporteur.
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.
The rapporteur is responsible for presenting a draft report to committee, including his/her amendments to the Commission proposal.
The parliamentary committee usually meets several times to examine the draft report.
On controversial or "technical" dossiers, it is not unusual to organise hearings with experts or to commission studies or impact assessments.
During committee debates, the Commission may defend its proposal and answer questions from members of the committee.
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.
Associated and opinion-giving committees submit their opinions to the lead committee.
Any full or substitute member of the committee can table amendments by the deadline set by the committee responsible. All amendments are subject to a vote in the committee responsible, which votes by simple majority.
Before the committee responsible 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.
Once the report is adopted in committee, it is placed on the plenary agenda.
A political group or at least 36 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.
The plenary discusses the legislative proposal on the basis of the report drawn up by the committee responsible, including any proposed amendments, a draft legislative resolution and, if appropriate, an explanatory statement by the rapporteur.
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 Parliament's amendments is approved by the College of Commissioners.
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, if any. The legislative resolution contains only a statement saying whether Parliament approves or rejects the proposal or amends it. It could include specific requests, usually addressed to the other institutions, or clarifications.
All the votes listed above are by simple majority, i.e. a majority of votes cast.
reject the proposal as a whole
approve the proposal without amendments
approve it with amendments
Before voting on any amendments, the President may ask the Commission to state its position and the Council to comment.
If a motion for the rejection of the proposal, tabled by the committee responsible, a political group or at least 36 members, is adopted, Parliament's President will request the Commission withdraw its proposal. If the Commission does so, the legislative procedure stops. If the Commission refuses, Parliament may decide to refer the matter back to the parliamentary committee. It may also decide to do so if the Commission proposal, as amended or otherwise, fails to secure a majority of the votes cast.
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.
Once Parliament has concluded its first reading the Commission may adopt a “modified proposal” incorporating a number of Parliament's amendments.
The Treaty does not set any time limit for Parliament's first reading.
Negotiations between Parliament and the Council
Since the Amsterdam Treaty, it has been possible to conclude an ordinary legislative procedure at first reading. In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards agreements at first reading. In order to do so, the co-legislators (Parliament and Council) have to negotiate unless they both approve the Commission proposal without amendments or agree to minor technical amendments that do not require negotiation.
If the committee wishes to enter into negotiations with the Council in view of an agreement at first reading, it may also, after adopting its report, adopt a decision to negotiate by an absolute majority.
The committee report constitutes the mandate and is announced in plenary. Members then have 24 hours to object. If there are no objections within the deadline, the committee may start negotiating. If an objection is raised, the mandate is put to the vote in plenary: a simple majority of Parliament members may approve the mandate. Should the mandate be rejected, the committee report and any amendments are placed on the agenda of the following plenary session, at which Parliament may adopt its first reading position, or refer the proposal back to the committee for negotiation (on the basis of the amendments tabled in plenary) or for reconsideration.
Alternatively, the committee may seek to immediately obtain a mandate from the plenary. In such instances, the committee will table its report to plenary, which, before concluding Parliament’s first reading vote, can decide to refer the file back to the committee for negotiation, together with any amendments adopted by the plenary.
For inter-institutional negotiations of legislative proposals, Parliament’s negotiating team is presided over by the chair of the committee responsible, while the rapporteur for the specific file plays a leading role in defending Parliament’s position. The team also includes the shadow rapporteurs from the political groups.
Where negotiations are successful, the chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), which prepares Council decisions, 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.
The provisional agreement must be approved in the committee responsible by a simple majority vote. It is then tabled in plenary by the committee responsible.
Provisional agreements are given priority in plenary ;.Votes on such agreements take place after any votes on proposals for rejection, but generally before those on amendments.
First reading in Council
During its first 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 second reading.
There is no time limit on the Council's first reading
The Council decides by qualified majority, unless its position differs from that of the Commission, in which case unanimity is required.
Find out what position your government is taking on proposed legislation and send your comments and concerns to the relevant national authorities.
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.
During the 2014-2019 legislative term, 89% of the files were agreed at first reading, compared with 85% in the 2009-2014 legislative term, , 72% in 2004-2009 and 29% in 1999-2004.
The average time for a a Commission proposal to be adopted on the first reading - from publication until the signature following the adoption of an act first-was just below 18 months in the 2014-2019 legislative term, compared to 17 months in the 2009-2014 term, 16 months in the 2004-2009 term and 11 months in 1999-2004.
Preparatory work in Council runs in parallel with the first reading in Parliament, but Council may only formally conduct its first reading based on Parliament's position. Council can: accept the Parliament’s position, in which case the legislative act is adopted; or adopt changes to Parliament's position, leading to a Council's first reading position, which is sent to Parliament for a second reading.
The Commission proposal is sent to the Council at the same time it goes to the European Parliament.
Preparatory work in Council thus runs in parallel with the European Parliament, but Council may only adopt its position after Parliament has acted.
The institutions are encouraged to exchange information on the progress and timetable of negotiations in the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure.
As with Parliament, there is no time limit for the Council first reading.
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.
Prior to reaching a first reading position, Council may reach an agreement in principle, commonly termed a general approach.
This can constitute the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the Parliament.
More often, the Council adopts negotiating mandates in the Committee of the Permanent Representatives (Coreper). Once negotiations with the Parliament have concluded, or when there are no negotiations, the Council first reaches a "political agreement", laying down the broad outline of its proposed first 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 first reading position by the Council at a subsequent meeting.
In both cases, the Council only finalises its position after receiving Parliament's first reading amendments and the Commission's resulting amended proposal.
A first 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.
Council decides by qualified majority except on taxation, social security, foreign policy, defence and operational police cooperation, which require unanimity.
There are four possible scenarios for Council's first reading:
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.
If Parliament has introduced amendments, adoption of the act is dependent on the 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 the 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.
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 first reading to withdraw or alter its proposal.
If Council does not adopt all Parliament's amendments or wants to introduce its own changes, it adopts a first reading position.
The text of the first 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.
Parliament is generally notified of the Council´s first 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 reception of Council´s first reading position in plenary (the day after the announcement, which usually takes place on Thursday).
Wherever possible, informal contacts take place in the period between the political agreement and the formal notification of Council´s first reading position, with a view to facilitating a (early) second reading agreement (also known as "negotiated first reading position").
Negotiations between the EU institutions
When the co-legislators are aiming for a first reading agreement they organise informal meetings attended by representatives of the Parliament (rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs), the Council (Presidency chair of the working party and/or Coreper, sometimes also a minister), and the Commission (department responsible for the dossier, sometimes also the responsible Commissioner). These meetings are knowns as trilogues. The aim is to ensure that the Parliament amendments adopted in plenary are acceptable to Council. The Commission frequently plays a mediating role in respect of compromise texts.
The co-legislators also frequently negotiate after Parliament’s first reading but before the Council adopts its first reading position. If successful, such negotiations lead to so-called early second reading agreements, as the Parliament’s second reading position, which will be identical to Council’s first reading position, will conclude the legislative procedure.
Unlike negotiations at the first reading stage, Parliament’s mandate will be its first reading position. Where negotiations are successful, the chair of the parliamentary committee responsible will send a letter to the Coreper chair, in which the Parliament undertakes to approve the Council's amendments if they are in line with the agreed compromise.
The provisional agreement must be approved in the committee responsible, by a simple majority vote. It is then tabled in plenary by the committee. responsible.
The legislative proposal is adopted.
The vast majority of proposals are adopted at this stage
The legislative proposal moves to the next step
Second reading in Parliament
Parliament examines the 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 second reading.
Parliament has three months to conduct a second reading with a possible one-month extension.
The parliamentary committee responsible decides by simple majority of votes cast.
The plenary acts by simple majority of votes cast if it approves the Council's first reading position without amendments. Any amendments or rejection of the Council's position must be approved by an absolute majority of MEPs.
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
If the Parliament approves the 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 the Council's position, it adopts the Position of the European Parliament adopted at second reading
In the 2014-2019 legislative term, 41 out of 401 concluded files under the ordinary legislative procedure (10%) were adopted in so-called early second readings, when Parliament adopts a pre-negotiated (between Parliament, the Council and the Commission) Council first reading position without amendments, meaning the act is adopted. The average length of the procedure for early second reading agreements was 39 months.
In the 2009-2014 term, 8% of the files were adopted in early second reading, taking an average of 32 months. In the 2004-2009 term, 10% of files were adopted in early second reading, taking an average of 25 months. In the 1999-2004 term, 25% of files were adopted in early second reading, taking an average of 23 months.
The European Parliament has three (with a possible extension to four) months to examine Council's position. The Council position goes first to the committee responsible, which prepares a recommendation for Parliament's second reading. Plenary votes on the recommendation including possible (albeit limited) amendments. There are four possible outcomes to a second reading: Parliament approves the Council's position and the act is adopted; Parliament does not take a decision within the time limit, in which case the act is adopted as amended by Council in its first reading; Parliament rejects the Council's first reading position, in which case the act is not adopted and the procedure is ended; Parliament proposes amendments to the Council's first reading position and forwards its position to the Council for a second reading.
If the Council does not agree with the European Parliament's first reading position, it adopts a Council first 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.
The documentation received by Parliament comprises:
Council first reading position
all declarations made in the Council minutes when the position was adopted
the reasons that led the Council to adopt its position
Upon receipt and after verification of the documentation, the President makes an announcement in plenary, acknowledging receipt of the Council's first reading position and the Commission's communication about it. The file is automatically forwarded to the committee responsible, which is the same as in first reading. Documents are available in all official languages.
Unlike the first reading, the second reading is subject to strict time limits. Parliament must act within three months (which the Parliament or the Council can request is extended to four). The starting date is the announcement of Council´s first reading position in plenary.
The second reading in committee is broadly similar to the first reading procedure, but the text to be amended is the Council's first reading position rather than the Commission proposal. Only the committee responsible prepares a report; there are no opinions from other committees.
Council may be invited to present its position at the first meeting of the committee responsible.
The rapporteur (usually the same MEP who drew up the first reading report) draws up a draft recommendation, i.e. a second-reading report.
The draft recommendation includes amendments proposed by the rapporteur. Only full or permanent substitute members of the committee responsible may table additional amendments.
There are restrictions on second reading amendments in committee and plenary. They are admissible only if they seek:
to wholly or partly restore Parliament's first reading position
to reach a compromise between Parliament and Council
to amend part of the Council text that was not included in, or differs in content from, the original Commission proposal
to take account of a new fact or legal situation that has arisen since Parliament’s first reading position.
The chair of the committee responsible rules on the admissibility of amendments.
If elections for the European Parliament have taken place since the first reading, the President may decide that the restrictions do not apply.
The committee decides on the amendments and the recommendation for second reading by simple majority.
Following the committee vote, the recommendation goes to plenary.
The recommendation proposes the approval, amendment or rejection of the Council position at first reading and includes a short justification for the proposed decision.
The Council position and committee's second reading recommendation are automatically put on the draft plenary agenda for the Wednesday before the deadline for Parliament's second reading, but it can be dealt with in an earlier plenary session.
Amendments may be tabled for the plenary by the committee responsible, a political group or at least 36 individual members.
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.
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.
In such cases, the Commissioner responsible explains the Commission's position on the amendments during the plenary debate preceding the vote. As with the first reading, the Commission's position is prepared by the Inter-institutional relations group and subsequently ratified by the Commissioners.
The Council may also be invited to comment.
Possible results of the second reading include:
rejection of the first reading Council position
no Parliament's vote within the time limit
approval of the Council's first reading position without amendment (early second reading agreement)
Parliament proposes amendments to the Council's first reading position
The committee responsible, a political group or at least 36 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. an absolute majority. Any such proposal is voted on before voting proceeds on amendments.
Rejection of the Council's first reading position ends the legislative procedure: this can only be re-launched by a new Commission proposal. In July 2005 an overwhelming majority of MEPs rejected the Council’s position on the software patents directive (directive on the patentability of computer implemented inventions), which killed the proposal. This case raised the question as to whether the Commission can withdraw a proposal that has passed the first reading. While the Commission maintains its right to withdraw a proposal at any stage, Parliament and Council argue that once Council has adopted its first 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”.
If Parliament does not take a decision by the deadline, the act is deemed to have been adopted in accordance with the Council's first reading position.
If no amendments or proposal for rejection are tabled or adopted, the President merely announces that the proposed act has been adopted (there is no formal vote).
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.
Lastly, the Parliament might propose amendments to the Council's first reading position. They must fulfil the second reading criteria and each must be approved by an absolute majority of Parliament's component members.
The outcome of the vote is notified to the Council and the Commission.
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.
Negotiations between the EU institutions
In order to successfully conclude negotiations before conciliation, Parliament and the Council must negotiate when the proposal is still awaiting Parliament’s second reading. Negotiations take place during informal tripartite meetings (trilogues) including the Commission. Parliament’s negotiating team is presided over by the chair of the committee responsible, while the rapporteur plays a leading role in defending Parliament’s position. The team also includes the shadow rapporteurs from the political groups. The Council is represented by the Presidency chair of the relevant Council working party or Coreper - or sometimes by a minister - and assisted by the Council administration. The Commission is usually represented by the officials in charge of the dossier (sometimes by the Commissioner responsible), assisted by the Commission's Secretariat-General and Legal Service.
Parliament’s mandate in these negotiations is its first reading position.
The purpose of these negotiations 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.
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.
The provisional agreement must be approved in the committee responsible, by a simple majority vote. It is then tabled in plenary by the committee responsible.
The legislative proposal is adopted.
The legislative proposal is not adopted
The legislative proposal moves to the next step
Second reading in Council
The Council examines Parliament's second 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.
The Council has three months to conduct its second reading with a possible one-month extension.
The 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.
The Council can only react to Parliament's amendments. You can let your government know your position on individual amendments.
If the Council approves Parliament's second 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 second reading, the legislative procedure continues with the conciliation stage.
In the 2014-2019 legislative term, only four out of 401 legislative files (1%) were agreed at the second reading (excluding agreements at early second reading), compared to 5% in the 2009-2014 term, 13% in the 2004-2009 term and 24% in the 1999-2004 term.
The average length of the procedure for adoption in the second reading during the 2014-2019 legislative term (excluding agreements at early second reading) was 40 months. The average length in the 2009-2014 and the 2004-2009 terms was 32 months, while in the 1999-2004 term it was 24 months.
The Council has three (with a possible extension to four) months to examine Parliament's second reading position. It is also informed about the European Commission's position on Parliament's second 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.
Upon official receipt of the European Parliament's second reading amendments, in all official languages, the Council's second reading clock starts to tick.
The Council now has three months (or four months if extended) to act.
The Council may accept or reject Parliament's amendments. Before deciding, it receives the Commission's opinion about them.
The procedure is similar to the preparation of the Council's first reading position: the competent working party prepares a position, which is submitted to Coreper and adopted by the Council.
The number of votes needed in Council's second 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.
If all Parliament's second 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.
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 six weeks (with a possible extension of two weeks) of the Council's rejection.
The legislative proposal is adopted.
The legislative proposal is not adopted
The legislative proposal moves to the next step
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 third reading.
The Conciliation Committee must be convened within six (with a possible extension to eight) weeks. It has six (or eight if jointly agreed) weeks to agree a joint text.
The Parliament delegation to the Conciliation Committee approves the joint text by an absolute majority (at least 14 votes of 27 currently), while the Council representatives generally vote by qualified majority.Citizen involvement
There are 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.
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.
If agreement is reached, the committee comes up with a "joint text" or (in full) "Joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee".
During the 2014-2019 legislative term, there were no conciliation procedures. This confirmed a trend that became visible during earlier parliamentary terms: in the 2009-2014 term, 2% of files (9 files) went to conciliation, down from 5% of files (24 files) during the 2004-2009 term and 20% during the 1999-2004 term.
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
Within six (with a possible extension to eight) weeks of the conclusion of Council's second reading (in which it does not accept all of Parliament’s second reading amendments), the Presidents of the Council and European Parliament convene the Conciliation Committee, with equal numbers of MEPs and Council representatives. The Conciliation Committee has six weeks (with a possible extension to eight) to decide on a joint text based on the second 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 third reading to the European Parliament and the Council.
If the Council does not approve all Parliament's amendments at second reading, a Conciliation Committee is convened.
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.
The Conciliation Committee must be convened within six weeks (or eight, if an extension has been agreed) of the conclusion of the Council's second reading and official notification to Parliament that it will not accept Parliament's second reading amendments.
Each legislative proposal requiring conciliation is discussed separately within a dedicated Conciliation Committee.
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.
From the day of the first meeting, it has six weeks (with a possible maximum extension of two weeks on the initiative of Parliament or Council and by common accord between them) to negotiate and approve a joint text.
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 second reading amendments. Conciliation Committee meetings may also be interrupted by trilogue negotiations.
Trilogues and technical meetings bring together small teams of negotiators from Parliament, the Council and the Commission, each of which reports to their delegation within the Conciliation Committee.
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.
The Council is represented by a member of the Council or 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.
The European Commission is represented by the Commissioner or their representative (Director-General of the department in charge of the dossier), assisted by experts, its legal service and the administration.
Technical meetings are usually attended by experts and civil servants from the three institutions.
Negotiations in trilogue are based on a “four-column document” setting out the positions of Parliament and Council:
Council's first reading position
Parliament's second reading amendments
Council's position on Parliament's amendments (acceptance, rejection, or possible compromise text)
the Parliament delegation's position on the Council's proposals.
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.
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.
The Conciliation Committee itself consists of two delegations of equal size: one from the European Parliament and one from the Council.
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).
The Parliament delegation is composed of an equal number of MEPs - 27 - plus 27 substitutes (who can only vote if a member of their political group is absent). Three Parliament vice-presidents are permanent members of the Conciliation Committee and take turns to co-chair it. The other 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 14). More information about Parliament's delegation to the Conciliation Committee can be found below.
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.
As with trilogues, the main working tool is the four column document (see point 13), translated into all official languages. The committee also has the Commission proposal and its opinion on Parliament's second reading amendments.
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.
Most Conciliation Committee meetings start with a trilogue where the two co-legislators clarify their positions, based on the mandates of their respective institutions. The Commission serves as a facilitator.
The institution that 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.
If the Parliament and Council delegations fail to reach an agreement in the Conciliation Committee, the proposal falls. A new procedure can be based only on a new Commission proposal. As of January 2020, 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).
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.
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 isposted on the Parliament's website as soon as possible after the end of negotiations.
After legal/linguistic revision, the document is made available in all official EU languages.
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.
The agreement reached in the Conciliation Committee has to be confirmed by both the 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
The Parliament 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 second reading amendments and possibly also to provide information about ongoing developments in the Council of which they are aware.
Members of the delegation monitor the progress of the conciliation procedure on an ongoing basis at successive meetings.
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.
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 14 of a possible 27).
The delegation is assisted by a dedicated service of Parliament's administration, the Legislative Affairs Unit, and by specialised services: e.g. legal service, lawyer-linguists and press service.
The legislative proposal is not adopted
The legislative proposal moves to the next step
Third reading in the European Parliament and Council
Third 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.
Third reading in Council:
Council examines the joint text. It cannot change the wording. If it either rejects or does not act on it, the 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
Parliament and Council have six weeks to approve the joint text, which could be extended to eight weeks, if the two institutions agree. If either Parliament or Council reject the text, or do not approve it in time, the procedure ends without the adoption of legislation.
Parliament approves the joint position by a simple majority of votes cast. The Council approves the joint text by qualified majority.
The joint text cannot be changed. You can only ask MEPs and/or your government to approve or reject the joint text.
The 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.
The 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.
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 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 six (or eight 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.
If the Conciliation Committee approves the joint text, it must be approved by the full European Parliament and the Council in third readings. The two institutions vote separately on the joint text, There is no possibility to further amend it
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.
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.
The third reading is conducted over a period of six weeks from the date of this letter. The time-limit may be extended by a maximum of two weeks on the initiative of the Parliament or Council and by common accord between them.
During the six-week (possibly extended to eight) 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.
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.
As of January 2020, the Parliament has rejected joint texts three times:
The joint text also has to be approved by the Council, which generally prefers to vote after Parliament's third reading. The Council decides by qualified majority.
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.
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.
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.
The legislative proposal is not adopted
The legislative proposal moves to the next step
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.
Proposal not adopted
If a legislative proposal is rejected at any stage of the procedure, or the Parliament and the 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.