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This was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and strengthened by later changes made to the treaties. The procedure puts the European Parliament on an equal footing with the Council insofar as one cannot adopt legislative texts without the agreement of the other.

In general, the Commission presents proposed legislative instruments but the European Parliament also has legislative initiative.

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the codecision procedure became the ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union, which has strengthened the Parliament’s powers. This procedure gives the European Parliament, as representative of the Union’s citizens, power to decide on legislative instruments alongside the Council of the European Union. It has become a co-legislator equal to the Council except, as provided for in the treaties, when the consultation or assent procedure is applied.

The ordinary legislative procedure requires one, two or three readings. Its aim is to increase the contact between the Parliament and the Council, the co-legislators, as well as with the European Commission.


Texts that could not be adopted at first or second reading are subject to the conciliation procedure. The conciliation committee brings together representatives of the 27 Member States and the same number of representatives from the European Parliament (MEPs). These come together in a parliamentary delegation that retains the relative importance of the political groups.

The committee examines the Council position and the amendments adopted by the Parliament in the second reading. It has six weeks to find a compromise and develop a common draft.

If the conciliation committee does not manage to agree on a common draft within the timeframe, the instrument is considered not adopted and the process ends.

If the conciliation committee approves the common draft, it is then submitted to Council and Parliament for approval.

Conference of Presidents

The Conference of Presidents brings together, under the auspices of President of the European Parliament, the presidents of the political groups as well as one non-attached MEP who participates in the Conference but does not have the right to vote.

It organises the Parliament’s work and any issues related to the legislative programming. Furthermore, the Conference establishes the agenda of the sessions, decides on the composition and competencies of committees and authorises initiative reports. Finally, it plays an important role in the European Parliament’s relations with other community institutions, third countries and extra-community organisations.

Constructive abstention

Constructive abstention (allowed for within the Common Foreign and Security Policy) means that a Member State can choose abstention during a vote in the Council without blocking a unanimous decision.

In practice, if the abstention comes with a formal declaration, the Member State in question is not obliged to enforce the decision in their own country but must accept that the Union is committed to it. From that point on, the Member State must avoid any measures that might bring it into conflict with the Union’s actions based on the decision.

If the Council members who add such a declaration to their abstention represent at least one third of the Member States bringing together at least one third of the population, the decision cannot be adopted.

Consultation procedure and assent procedure

The consultation procedure enables the European Parliament to give its opinion on a European Commission proposal. In this case, the Council of Ministers consults the Parliament before deciding on the Commission proposal and takes Parliament’s opinion into consideration. Thus, they are not obliged to follow the Parliament’s position but, in certain cases, they must consult MEPs.

The Parliament’s power is quite limited in this procedure as it can only hope that the Commission will modify its proposal when the amendments are taken into account.

This parliamentary consultation is also used for instruments of a non-binding nature such as recommendations and Council or Commission opinions.

According to the assent procedure, the Council must gain the agreement of the European Parliament in order to make certain decisions of major importance. The principle of assent procedure rests on a single reading. The Parliament can accept or reject a proposal but cannot amend it. Without assent, it is impossible to adopt the instrument.

The areas in which assent procedure is necessary are mainly membership of new states, association agreements and other fundamental agreements with third countries.

It is also required for citizenship and for specific European Central Bank (ECB) missions.

Lastly, the European Parliament gives its assent on applying sanctions against Member States where serious and persistent breaches of the fundamental community laws are made.

Parliament’s assent is given with a majority of the votes cast. However, the majority of members are required to be in favour in two cases, namely membership of a new Member State and the electoral procedure.


The cooperation procedure only applies these days in the areas of economic and monetary policy.

In the first reading, Parliament formulates an opinion on the Commission proposal. The Council, for its part, decides on a position and conveys it to the Parliament which has three months to approve, reject or amend it. If it rejects the common position, the Council can only make a ruling on the second reading that is unanimously agreed.

If the Parliament makes amendments, the Commission reviews the proposal and must, if needs be, explain to Council why it did not take certain amendments on board. The Council thus has several possibilities: adopt the re-examined proposal by qualified majority, modify it with a unanimous decision or adopt the Parliament amendments not taken up by the Commission also with a unanimous vote. If this does not happen, the Commission proposal is considered not adopted.

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