The European Council generally seeks consensus on political guidelines and most of its concrete decisions have to be unanimous. But some questions the European Council can decide by voting.
We look at where the European Council needs a qualified majority (QMV) according to the Treaty of Lisbon.
QUALIFIED MAJORITY VOTING
The European Union elects its President by a qualified majority according to Article 15(5) of the amended Treaty on European Union (TEU):
Article 15(5) TEU
5. The European Council shall elect its President, by a qualified majority, for a term of two and a half years, renewable once. In the event of an impediment or serious misconduct, the European Council can end the President's term of office in accordance with the same procedure.
(Consolidated Treaty of Lisbon, published in OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115)
President of the Commission
The European Council takes the results of the European elections into account and holds appropriate consultations, before it proposes a candidate for President of the Commission. The proposal is made by a qualified majority.
If the proposal fails, a new one is made by qualified majority.
When the European Parliament has elected the Commission President and later given its consent to the Commission as a body, the European Council appoints the Commission by a qualified majority:
Article 17(7) TEU
7. Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.
The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3, second subparagraph, and paragraph 5, second subparagraph.
The President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament. On the basis of this consent the Commission shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.
(See Declaration 11 on Article 17(6) and (7) of the Treaty on European Union on consultations between the European Parliament and the European Council.)
Qualified majority voting can be used by the European Council to appoint the High Representative, as well as to end his term of office:
Article 18 TEU
1. The European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, shall appoint the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Council may end his term of office by the same procedure.
Council configurations and Presidency
The Lisbon Treaty splits the existing General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) into two new configurations named in the treaty, the coordinating General Affairs Council (GAC) and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) covering the whole of external relations.
Therefore the European Council decides only on the other Council configurations. The decision is made by qualified majority.
The rotating Council Presidency is abolished for the European Council itself (new President) and for the FAC (High Representative), but with regard to the other Council configurations the system continues. The system is based on equal rotation, offering each member state six months at the helm every 13.5 years (in an EU with 27 members):
Article 236 TFEU
The European Council shall adopt by a qualified majority:
(a) a decision establishing the list of Council configurations, other than those of the General Affairs Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council, in accordance with Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union;
(b) a decision on the Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union.
(See Declaration 9 on Article 16(9) of the Treaty on European Union concerning the European Council decision on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council.)
Executive Board of ECB
The President, the Vice-President and the four other members of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank are (ECB) appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority:
Article 283(2) TFEU, second subparagraph
The President, the Vice-President and the other members of the Executive Board shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, from among persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters, on a recommendation from the Council, after it has consulted the European Parliament and the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.
(The contents are repeated in Article 11.2 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and the European Central Bank; Protocol (No 4))
The Protocol (No 19) on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the European Union foresees a qualified majority decision by the European Council in a case referred to it:
4. If, by the end of the period of four months, the Council has not adopted a decision, a Member State may, without delay, request that the matter be referred to the European Council. In that case, the European Council shall, at its next meeting, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, take a decision in accordance with the criteria referred to in paragraph 3.
The next post looks at when the European Council can decide by simple majority.