In general, it is the European Commission that proposes new legislation, but it is the Council and Parliament that pass the laws. In some cases, the Council can act alone. Other institutions also have roles to play. The main forms of EU law are directives and regulations. The rules and procedures for EU decision-making are laid down in the treaties. Every proposal for a new European law is based on a specific treaty article, referred to as the ‘legal basis’ of the proposal. This determines which legislative procedure must be followed. The three main procedures are ‘consultation’, ‘assent’ and ‘co-decision’, this last is the procedure used for most EU law-making. In the co-decision procedure, the EP shares legislative power equally with the Council. Through the co-decision procedure, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council decide on regulations, which are a general measure that is binding in all its parts and are directly applicable, and takes immediate effect in all the Member States in the same way as a national instrument, without any further action on the part of the national authorities. It also decides on directives, which are binding in Member States, but leaves them the choice of the form and method they adopt to realise the Community objectives within the framework of their internal legal order.


The Co-decision procedure 

This procedure is used to take many legislative decisions in the EU. The procedure has three phases, called readings, in which both the EP and the Council discuss the text on the table and take positions. The Commission proposes a draft piece of legislation and sends it to the Council and the EP in what is called “first reading”. The relevant working group of the Council then begins n closed working group meetings. The outcome of these meetings is not accessible to the public. At the same time, the EP also starts work on the proposal. An MEP is appointed as “rapporteur” to write a report about the proposal of the Commission which is voted on in the responsible Committee for this directive. The EP also conducts public hearings at this stage. Because the Council’s general approach is usually ready much earlier than the EP report, the “rapporteur” often includes the amendments necessary to reach a Common Approach. When the report is adopted by the responsible EP committee, the report can be put to vote in a plenary session in Strasbourg. After the vote in the parliament, the Council has its first reading on the basis of the text from the EP. It can do two things: accept the text as voted in the EP meaning that the directive comes into effect as voted in the EP. If the text is not accepted by the  Council, a common position  needs to be  decided between Member States, in order to reach a consensus  with the EP. After the Council has sent its common position to the European Parliament, a time period of 3 months starts to run. If the EP does
nothing within this time frame, the common position enters into force as a directive. However, if the European Parliament does not agree, it has to adopt changes to the common position or reject the common position. To change or reject the text in Second Reading, the EP needs an absolute majority of the 736 MEPs for each change. If the text is changed the text goes for Second Reading in the Council. And there are various scenarios:

1. If all EP changes are accepted by the Council, the text is adopted and enters into force.

2. If EP changes are not accepted by the Council, a “conciliation phase” starts within 6 weeks of the Council’s decision in which representatives from the Council, the EC and the EP meet in conciliation committee meetings and try to find a common text which all agree upon.

a. If the committee does not come to a result, the proposal is withdrawn

b. If the committee comes up with a text, this text goes into Third Reading, in which the outcome of the conciliation is sent to the Council and the EP and if Council or Parliament reject this outcome, the proposal is withdrawn; otherwise it enters into force as directive.

 Click here to enlarge the co-decision
procedure char