The Ordinary Legislative Procedure

Under the Treaty of Lisbon, codecision officially became the 'Ordinary Legislative Procedure' and the general rule for passing legislation at EU level, covering the vast majority of areas of Union action.

The main characteristic of the ordinary legislative procedure is the adoption of legislation jointly and on an equal footing by Parliament and the Council. It starts with a legislative proposal from the Commission (normally for a regulation, directive or decision) and consists of up to three readings, with the possibility for the co-legislators to agree on a joint text - and thereby conclude the procedure - at any reading.

At first reading, Parliament and Council examine in parallel the Commission's proposal. It is, however, the Parliament that acts first, voting by a simple majority (i.e. a majority of the votes cast) and usually on the basis of a report prepared by one of its committees, in most cases either amending the Commission's proposal or adopting it without amendments. It can also reject the proposal altogether. After the Parliament has adopted its position, the Council may decide to accept Parliament's position, in which case the legislative act is adopted, or it may adopt a different position at first reading and communicate it to Parliament for a second reading. Neither the Parliament nor the Council is subject to any time limit by which it must conclude its first reading.

In very general terms, the second reading in the ordinary legislative procedure follows a similar logic and pattern.

However, when compared to the first reading, there are key differences, in particular as regards the deadlines and the voting procedure in Parliament. Thus at second reading each of the co-legislators has three months, extendible by one month, to adopt its position. As regards the voting majorities in Parliament at second reading, Parliament rejects or amends the Council's first-reading position by an absolute majority of its Members (currently 353 out of 705 votes), rather than by a simple majority as it is the case in first reading.

Conciliation is the third and final stage of the ordinary legislative procedure. The conciliation procedure is opened if the Council cannot accept all the amendments adopted by Parliament at second reading. It consists of negotiations between the two co-legislators in the framework of the Conciliation Committee, with the objective of reaching an agreement in the form of a 'joint text' which then has to be confirmed by both Parliament and the Council.

The Ordinary Legislative Procedure - step by step

Flow chart explaining the three phases of the Ordinary Legislative procedure
The three phases of ordinary legislative procedure

Main Parliament Actors during the Ordinary Legislative Procedure

In Parliament, the Commission proposal is referred to the committee responsible for the subject matter (lead committee), which appoints a 'rapporteur' to draft Parliament's report and act as the institution's spokesperson on the file. Under certain conditions the examination of a Commission proposal can also involve several committees, under the procedure of opinion-giving committees, associated committees or joint committee meetings and vote.

  • appointed by the political group to which the file was attributed following a decision of the lead committee's coordinators endorsed by the committee
  • prepares the draft report of the responsible committee and leads the file through the various stages of the procedure, including interinstitutional negotiations

Shadow rapporteurs

  • appointed by each of the remaining political groups
  • coordinate amendments expressing the views of their political groups and represent their group during interinstitutional negotiations

Committee chair

  • elected by the committee
  • chairs and, together with the rapporteur, leads interinstitutional negotiations on behalf of the Parliament unless the role is delegated to a Vice-chair

Parliament negotiating team
  • Once interinstitutional negotiations start Parliament's negotiating team is led by the rapporteur and presided over by the chair of the committee responsible or by a Vice-Chair. The negotiating team comprises at least the shadow rapporteurs from each political group that wishes to participate.

Vice-Presidents responsible for conciliation

  • three out of 14 Vice-Presidents are responsible for conciliation and are appointed for renewable two-and-a-half year mandates
  • lead interinstitutional negotiations during the conciliation phase, together with the rapporteur and the lead committee chairman, on behalf of the Parliament

The Ordinary Legislative Procedure in Figures II

Percentage of Codecision/Ordinary Legislative Procedure files adopted at 1st, early 2nd , 2nd or 3rd reading

In practice, a very large proportion of codecision files are now agreed at the first and second reading (including early second-reading agreements: when Parliament approves without amendment the Council's position at first reading). The third and final stage of the procedure, known as 'conciliation', has become the exception and is limited to very difficult files. In the eighth term all files under the ordinary legislative procedure were agreed before the third reading stage.