The Council of the European Union

The Council is the main decision-making body of the European Union

The ministers of the Member States meet within the Council of the European Union. Depending on the issue on the agenda, each country will be represented by the minister responsible for that subject (foreign affairs, finance, social affairs, transport, agriculture, etc.).

The presidency of the Council is held for six months by each Member State on a rotational basis.

The Council is responsible for decision-making and co-ordination

  • The Council of the European Union passes laws, usually legislating jointly with the European Parliament.
  • The Council co-ordinates the broad economic policies of the Member States.
  • The Council defines and implements the EU’s common foreign and security policy, based on guidelines set by the European Council.
  • The Council concludes, on behalf of the Community and the Union, international agreements between the EU and one or more states or international organisations.
  • The Council co-ordinates the actions of Member States and adopts measures in the area of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters.
  • The Council and the European Parliament constitute the budgetary authority that adopts the Community’s budget.

The acts of the Council

The acts of the Council can take the form of regulations, directives, decisions, common actions or common positions, recommendations or opinions.

The Council can also adopt conclusions, declarations or resolutions.

When the Council acts as a legislator, in principle it is the European Commission that makes proposals. These are examined within the Council, which can make modifications before adopting them.

The European Parliament is an active participant in this legislative process. On a broad range of issues, Community legislation is adopted jointly by the Parliament and the Council using a procedure known as «co-decision».

The number of votes each Member State can cast is set by the Treaties. The Treaties also define cases in which a simple majority, qualified majority or unanimity are required

A qualified majority will be reached if the following two conditions are met:

  • if a majority of Member States approve (in some cases a two-thirds majority);
  • a minimum of 255 votes is cast in favour of the proposal, out of a total of 345 votes.

In addition, a Member State may ask for confirmation that the votes in favour represent at least 62% of the total population of the Union. If this is found not to be the case, the decision will not be adopted.

Distribution of votes for each Member State

Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom


Spain, Poland






Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal


Austria, Bulgaria, Sweden


Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Finland


Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia






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The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is held in turn by each Member State

The Council is presided for a period of six months (from January to June, and from July to December) by each Member State in turn, in accordance with a pre-established rota.

The Presidency of the Council plays an essential role in organising the work of the institution, particularly in promoting legislative and political decisions. It is responsible for organising and chairing all meetings, including the many working groups, and for brokering compromises.


Presidency order of rotation


COUNCIL DECISION of 1 January 2007 determining the order in which the office of President of the Council shall be held


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