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Qualified majority (in the Council of Ministers)

The Nice Treaty instituted a system of qualified majority based on a weighting of votes and a ‘demographic verification’ clause. The number of votes allocated to each Member State was weighted, in particular for the countries with bigger populations, so that the legitimacy of Council decisions could be maintained in terms of demographic representation. Since January 1st 2007, and following the Union’s enlargement, a qualified majority is reached at 255 votes out of 345 and if the decision is found favourable by a majority of Member States.

Furthermore, a Member State can ask for verification that the qualified majority includes at least 62% of the Union’s total population. If not, the decision is not adopted.

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, a new system known as ‘double majority’ has been introduced. This system will only enter into force on November 1st 2014 with the Nice system remaining applicable for a transitional period. According to the treaty, the new qualified majority corresponds to at least 55% of Council members including at least 15 of them and representing at least 65% of the European population. A blocking minority can be formed by at least four member of Council.

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