Council of the European Union

Council of the European Union

Introduction to Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (formerly called the Council of Ministers) represents the national governments. It is the primary decision-making authority of the EU and is the most important and powerful EU body. Although its name is similar to that of the European Council, the Council of the European Union’s powers are essentially limited to the EC pillar, whereas the European Council oversees all three pillars of EU cooperation.

When the Council of the European Union meets, one government minister from each member state is present. However, the minister for each state is not the same for every meeting. Each member state sends its government minister who is most familiar with the topic at hand. For example, a council of defense ministers might discuss foreign policy, whereas a council of agriculture ministers would meet to discuss crop prices.

The Council of the European Union adopts proposals and issues instructions to the European Commission. The council is expected to accomplish two goals that are not always compatible: further EU integration on one hand and protection of the interests of the member states on the other. This contradiction could become more difficult to reconcile as the EU continues to expand.

Decision-making in the council is complex. A few minor questions can be decided by a simple majority. Many issues, however, require what is called qualified majority voting (QMV). In QMV each country has an indivisible bloc of votes that is roughly proportional to its population. It takes two-thirds of the total number of votes to make a qualified majority. QMV was introduced in some policy areas to replace the need for a unanimous vote. This has made the decision-making process faster and easier because it prevents any one state from exercising a veto. Since the Single European Act, QMV has been steadily extended to more areas. Many important decisions, however, still require unanimous support.” (1)


Notes and References

  • Information about Council of the European Union in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  • Guide to Council of the European Union

    More Topics about the European Union

    European Economic Area, European Union, European Union History (including European Union Early Cooperation, Benelux Customs Union, European Coal and Steel Community, European Economic Community, European Community, Expansion of the EC, Single European Act, Creation of the European Union, Treaty on European Union, Amsterdam Treaty, Treaty of Nice, Treaty of Lisbon, Monetary Union and EU Growing Accountability), EU Pillar System, EU Major Bodies Structure, European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, European Central Bank, Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, European Union Policies, Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy,

    EU Economic Differences, European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Investment Bank, European Monetary System, Economic and Monetary Union, EU International Relations, EU Expansion,

    EU and Non-European Nations and European Union Future.

    Definition of Council of The European Union

    In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Council of The European Union : (Council of Ministers)

    The organ of the EU that is primarily concerned with the formulation of policy and (in conjunction with the *European Commission and *European Parliament) the adoption of *Community legislation. The Council consists of one member of government of each of the member states of the Community (normally its foreign minister, but other ministers may attend instead for the consideration of specialized topics), and its presidency is held by each state in turn for periods of six months. The Council is serviced by a Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). This consists of senior civil servants of each state and its primary function is to clarify national attitudes for the assistance of the Council in reaching its decisions. It also disposes on behalf of the Council of matters that are not controversial. Decisions of the Council are taken by a unanimous vote (See also veto) or, in most cases, by qualified majority voting. Each member state has a number of votes approximately proportional to the size of its population, with a total of 87 votes; in qualified majority voting a Commission proposal requires 62 votes to be passed.

    Compare European Council.

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