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You & Council of the EU

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

This blog post is part of the series ‘You&EU Institutions’.

In our last blog post of ‘You & EU institutions’ we dealt with the European Council and shed a bit of light on the differences between the European Council and the Council of the EU, who make part of seven EU institutions, as well as the Council of Europe that is not a part of the EU at all.

In this article, let’s have a look at what the Council of the EU does for us – and what impact YOU can have in its work.

What is the Council of the European Union?

The Council of the EU, informally called the Council of Ministers, is an EU legislative body representing the governments of the EU member states. National ministers from each member state take part in the Council’s meetings within their specific working group, negotiate the EU policies there and – most importantly – decide and vote, together with the European Parliament, about the proposed EU legislation. Its main role is to secure the national interest of your country within the EU.

How does the EU Council work?

There are no fixed members of the Council of the EU, as national ministers often change. However, ministers meet in the following 10 ‘configurations’, according to the topic being discussed:

· Agriculture and Fisheries

· Competitiveness

· Economic and Financial Affairs

· Environment

· Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

· Education, Youth, Culture and Sport

· Foreign Affairs

· General Affairs

· Justice and Home Affairs

· Transport, Telecommunication and Energy

Decisions and Votes in the Council of the EU

Let’s summarise how the Council of the EU decides and votes in four simple points:

· Decisions in the Council of the EU usually require a qualified majority (= 55 % of countries representing at least 65 % of EU population).

· To block a decision, at least four countries are needed, representing at least 35 % of EU population.

· When a sensitive topic is discussed, such as a foreign affairs or taxation issue, the decision requires unanimity (= all countries are in favour)

· Procedural and administrative issues are agreed by a simple majority vote.

Presidency to the Council of the EU

While the Lisbon Treaty (signed 2007) introduced a permanent President for the Council of the EU (Donald Tusk currently), the Council of the EU retained the principle of a rotating presidency. Therefore, when a configuration is meeting, it is chaired by the national minister of the member state who is holding the rotating EU presidency for the current 6-months period (January-June, July-December). For the period of January-June 2019, the Council of the EU is chaired by Romania. The only exception is the Foreign Affairs configuration who is chaired by a permanent president called the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently Federica Mogherini).

Meetings of the European Council and Council of the EU take place in the Europa building in Brussels

Meeting room of the Europa building

What is COREPER?

The work of the Council of the EU is supported, among others, by a preparatory body called Coreper (Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union). It is composed of permanent representatives from each member state, being the country’s ambassadors to the EU and ministerial deputies in the relevant areas. Before the Council of the EU’s ministerial agenda is set up, all items are first examined by Coreper. Coreper meets every week when it prepares and coordinates the work for different Council configurations and ensures consistency of the EU policies in general.

YOU & Council of the EU: what impact?

The impact of the Council of the EU on your life is twofold. First, the Council of the EU is a legislative body, voting on EU legislation together with the European Parliament. It could be likened to an Upper House or Senate, where specialised and national interests are introduced to legislation. Secondly, its delegates – national ministers and their deputies in Coreper – secure the interests of your country within the EU policy-making.

Therefore, as your voice in the EU is heard through the voice of the ministers of your government, You&EU suggests:

· Go vote in the national elections of your country;

· Follow the steps of your government ministers;

· Have a look at the Permanent Representation of your country where the deputies for Coreper can be found;

· Watch live-streaming of the Council of the EU meetings that are open to public; and

· Ask questions either to your representatives personally or to the Council directly!

The EU impacts your life. So have a say in how!

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