The Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union

The Council of the EU is the body representative of the member states’ governments. Also identified unofficially as the EU Council, it is where national ministers from each EU country encounter to approve laws and organize policies.

Overview of the Council of the European Union

Function: Forum of EU member governments, approving EU laws and harmonizing EU policies
Participants: Government ministers from every EU country, according to the policy topic to be examined
President: Every EU state holds the presidency on a 6-month alternating base
Founded: 1958 (as Council of the European Economic Community)
Locality: Brussels (Belgium)

Not to be confused with:

What are the competencies of the Council of the European Union?

1. Negotiates and approves EU laws
2. Coordinates member states’ policies
3. Develops the EU’s standard foreign and security policy
4. Concludes international agreements
5. Adopts the EU budget

1. Negotiates and approves EU laws

The Council is a decisive EU decision-maker. It discusses and approves legislative acts, in most cases jointly with the European Parliament, through the ordinary parliamentary procedure, also known as ‘co-decision.’ Policy topics where the EU has exclusive or shared competence with the member states implement the co-decision procedure. In these circumstances, the Council legislates on the ground of propositions proposed by the European Commission.

2. Coordinates member states policies

The Council is accountable for organizing member states’ policies in specific fields, such as:
Economic and fiscal policies: The Council coordinates member states’ economic and strategies to reinforce budgetary authority in the EU, overseers their budgetary plan and supports the EU’s monetary policy, and also deals with the legal and technical issues of the euro, capital markets, and capital markets;
Education, culture, youth, and sport: The Council implements EU policy agendas determining the priorities for cooperation between member states and the Commission;
Employment strategy: The Council draws up annual plans and commendations for member states, based on the European Council resolutions on the EU occupation condition.

3. Develops the EU’s standard foreign and security policy

The Council expresses and implements EU foreign and security policy founded on guidelines set by the European Council. The Council mandate includes the EU’s development and humanitarian aid, defense, and commerce. Jointly with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council guarantees the unity, uniformity, and efficacy of the EU’s external action.

4. Concludes international agreements

The Council delegates the Commission to negotiate, on behalf of the EU, covenants amid the EU and non-EU countries or international organizations. The Council approves the signature and close of the deal, based on the draft submitted by the Commission. The Council also adopts the final decision to agree, once the Parliament has given its consent (required in areas subject to co-decision) and all EU member states have ratified it. Treaties may cover general topics, such as trade, assistance, and development, or they may cover specific themes such as textiles, fisheries, customs, transport, science, and technology, etc.

5. Adopts the EU budget

The Council approves the EU budget jointly with the Parliament. The budget period covers a calendar year. It is usually accepted in December and starts running on 1 January the following year.

How is composed the Council of the EU?

There are no fixed participants of the EU Council. Instead, the Council convenes in 10 diverse configurations, each matching to the policy area under scrutiny. Depending on the composition, each state assigns a minister responsible for that policy subject.

E.g., when the Council summit discusses economic and financial affairs (Ecofin), it is joined by each state’s finance minister.

Who heads the Council of the EU summits?

Only the Foreign Affairs Council has a designated president – the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. All other Council assemblies are led by the pertinent minister of the state holding the alternating EU presidency.
E.g., the Italian environment minister will chair every Environment Council summit organized during the semester when Italy holds the EU presidency.
Daily tasks are managed by the General Affairs Council – maintained by the Permanent Representatives Committee, which is composed of the EU countries’ Permanent Representatives to the EU. They are also national ambassadors to the EU.

What is the Eurogroup?

In the European Union, the Euro is not the official currency.
Eight countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Sweden) are EU members but do not use the Euro.
The group of countries where the Euro is the official currency is named “Eurozone.” Eurozone states harmonize their economic policy through the Eurogroup, which contains their economy and finance ministers. The Eurogroup meets the day before Economic & Financial Affairs Council meetings. Understandings agreed in the Eurogroup meetings are officially approved in the Council the next day, with only ministers of Eurozone states voting on those subjects.

Eurozone Countries (Blu)
How does the Council vote?

All deliberations and votes of the Council of the EU are public.
To be approved, proposals usually demand a qualified majority of 55% of countries (with 27 current members, this means 15 countries), and representative of at least 65 % of the total EU populace.
To reject a proposal at least four states are required (on behalf of at least 35% of the whole EU populace)
Exceptions:
Specific matters, like foreign policy and taxation, need an agreed vote (all countries in favor).
A simple majority is required to approve procedural & administrative matters.

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.

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