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The Council of Ministers

History Functions

COREPER The Presidency Qualified majority voting

European Council and Council of Ministers Two chamber systems (US Senate, German Federal Chamber) A federal chamber?

Responsibilities and Powers

Embodiment of the member states on a ministerial level According to the matters on the agenda, the Council meets in different compositions Key decision-making and legislative body It concludes, on behalf of the EU, international agreements with one or more states or international organisations It shares budgetary authority with Parliament

Council of Ministers: hybrid nature

Represents 27 national governments
Agrees legislation binding on all members National ministers belong to national governments Council of Ministers form part of the EU




Multiple roles
The Council through different lenses (Wallace 2002)

1. 2. 3. 4.

Tandem with Commission (where EU has powers) Club of governments (new challenges) Location of persistent competition for governments EU legislature (alongside EP)

Council of Ministers: Composition

Consists of national ministers or their representatives Many different manifestations (11 key ones...). Most important: - General Affairs - Agriculture - ECOFIN - EURO

Council of Ministers: an intergovernmental body?

Difficulty: secrecy and lack of transparency

Variation in collegiality (voting power unequally distributed)

Frequency of meetings varies from 15 to 1 per year. 85 per cent of decisions not made by ministers (COREPER, technical committees)

Clusters (AO4 perspectives)

lines of conflict:
Net payer/ net receiver (budget, regional and social funds) Small and medium/bigger member states (setting norms, power) North/south (asylum, social policy, worker rights) Socialist/conservative (social rights, employment) Old/new member states (idealistic) France/Germany/GB/(Italy) (different coalitions) IMPORANT: Informal meetings, fireplace sittings

Committee of Permanent Representatives

COREPER: Composition and Function

Ambassadors of member states to EU Prepares agenda and meetings of ministers Classified A-points (rubber stamped) and B-points (discussed)

Dual faced:

Executers of national interests BUT: High degree of socialisation

Act collectively against governments Caught between collectiveness and national politics (loyalties)

Technical Committees
Prepare recommendations for COREPER Intensive interaction between national and Commission officials Colleagues judged by competence, not nationality Distinction between Commission and national officials soon lost

COREPER and Committees

Autonomy from/through:
Technical nature of dossiers

Ministers too busy to monitor

Instructions loosely drawn

Need to allow room for manoeuvre

Perm Reps can influence the national position

The Presidency
- Rotates between member states every six months, supported by secretariat - Pre Lisbon, was prestigious as the leader of the state presiding over the Council also presided over European Council - System has been criticised (terms too short, scope of demands not manageable by small members) - Question of enlargement...
2005 January-June: Luxembourg July-December: UK 2006 January-June: Austria July-December: Finland 2007 January-June: Germany July-December: Portugal 2008 January-June: Slovenia July-December: France 2009 January-June: Czech Rep July-Decvember: Sweden 2010 January-June: Spain July-December: Belgium 2011 January-June: Hungary July-December: Poland 2012 January-June: Denmark July-December: Cyprus (UK has to wait until July 2017 to preside over the Council of Ministers again.)

Qualified Majority Voting

To overcome the unanimous-vote-dilemma To avoid veto-deadlocks To challenge Commission action by common accord Votes to reflect the different sizes of the states Introduction of pass votes and minimal blocking minorities

Qualified Majority Voting - EU 6

Country Votes Weight of votes (in %) 23.5 23.5 23.5 Population (in millions) 57 53 53 Population of the EU (by %) 29.5 29.5 29.5

Germany France Italy

4 4 4

Netherlands Belgium
Luxembourg QMV

2 2
1 12

11.8 11.8

13 9

7 4.8






Qualified majority voting EU 15

Country Germany United Kingdom France Italy Spain Netherlands Greece Belgium Portugal Sweden Austria Denmark Finland Votes 10 10 10 10 8 5 5 5 5 4 4 3 3 Weight of votes (in %) 11.5 11.5 11.5 11.5 9.2 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.7 4.5 4.5 3.4 3.4 Population (in millions) 81.2 58.0 57.6 57.1 39.1 15.3 10.4 10.1 9.9 8.7 7.9 5.2 5.1 Population of the EU (by %) 22.0 15.7 15.6 15.5 10.6 4.1 2.8 2.7 2.7 2.4 2.1 1.4 1.4

Luxembourg Total QMV Blocking Minority

2 87 62 26





Weighted Votes in the Council EU 27

Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom Spain, Poland Romania Netherlands Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal Austria, Sweden, Bulgaria Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Finland Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia Malta

29 27 14 13 12 10 7 4 3

Nice Triple Majority

Majority of countries (50%=14 or 67%=18) and votes (74%=255) and population (62%=306) In many cases: Simple majority / no voting at all

Lisbon: Double Majority Voting

Weighted Voting replaced by - Majority (55%) of council members that represent 65% of the unions citizens 40 items move from unanimity to QMV e.g. Justice & interior affairs. 55% of states can form a blocking minority to delay a law coming through Sensitive areas e.g. common foreign policy remain subject to unanimity Comes into force in 2017

Class Questions
To what extent has the power of the Commission been eclipsed by the Council of Ministers in the decision making process of the EU? Is that a good or a bad thing?