Interinstitutional negotiations

Interinstitutional negotiations for the adoption of EU legislation

Trilogue meeting - European Parliament
Trilogue meeting - © European Union (2017) - European Parliament

Interinstitutional negotiations have become standard practice for the adoption of EU legislation.They enable the co-legislators to reach agreement at any stage of the legislative procedure. For Parliament, the general framework for conducting such negotiations is set out in the Rules of Procedure. 

The Parliament's mandate is based either on a report adopted in committee or the position adopted in Plenary. As soon as the lead committee has adopted its report, it may decide to enter into negotiations. At first reading such a decision is subject to a plenary "check". Plenary can either endorse the committee's decision to enter into negotiations with its report as mandate or it can modify the content of the report and refer it back as amended to the committee for negotiations. Plenary can always decide to conclude the first reading of Parliament without negotiations.

Negotiations between the institutions on legislative proposals generally take the form of tripartite meetings ('trilogues') between Parliament, the Council and the Commission. For a given file, each institution designates its negotiators and defines its negotiating mandate. Trilogues may be organised at any stage of the legislative procedure (first, second or third reading). Any provisional agreement reached in trilogues is informal and has therefore to be approved by the formal procedures applicable within each of the two institutions. In Parliament, the text of the provisional agreement has to be approved by a vote in committee after which it is confirmed in plenary.

Negotiation process under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure

Steps in the negotiation process

Trilogues explained

Trilogues are informal tripartite meetings on legislative proposals between representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Their purpose is to reach a provisional agreement on a text acceptable to both the Council and the Parliament. They may be organised at any stage of the legislative procedure and can lead to what are known as 'first reading','early second reading' or 'second reading' agreements, or to a 'joint text' during conciliation.

Trilogue negotiations involve, on the Parliament side, a negotiating team consisting of the Chair or a Vice-Chair of the responsible committee, the rapporteur and at least the shadow rapporteurs from each political group that wishes to participate and, on the Council side, representatives of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Commission is equally present.

During trilogue meetings, which are chaired by the co-legislator hosting the meeting (i.e. either Parliament or the Council), the two institutions explain their position and a debate develops. The Commission acts as a mediator with a view to facilitating an agreement between the co-legislators.The participants in the trilogues operate on the basis of negotiating mandates given to them by their respective institutions: by the responsible committee or plenary in Parliament, by Coreper or Council in the Council, and by the College in the Commission. The three delegations explore possible avenues of compromise in an informal manner and report back on a regular basis according to their respective institutions' internal rules, i.e. via the negotiating team to the committee for Parliament, in Coreper or the responsible working party for Council.

In conciliation, by contrast, the Parliament negotiating team consists of the Chair of the conciliation delegation (one of the Vice-Presidents for Conciliation), the Chair of the parliamentary committee and the rapporteur plus additional Members.The composition shall also correspond to the composition of Parliament by political group and consist of the same number as the members of the Council delegation. The Council is represented by the responsible Minister or the Chair of Coreper I or II, plus a representative from each Member State, while the Commission is represented by the responsible Commissioner or Director-General.