Tuesday, 7 July 2009

EU Council: Voting on behalf of another member

A member of the Council of the European Union can transfer his vote to another member.


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Current TEC

Article 206 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) offers a Council member the opportunity to be represented by another member of the Council of the European Union (consolidated version of the treaties in force, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/137):


Article 206 TEC

Where a vote is taken, any Member of the Council may also act on behalf of not more than one other member.


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Original Lisbon Treaty

Point 191 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) amended Article 205 TEC and point 192 replaced the wording of Article 207 TEC, so no specific amendments were made to Article 206 TEC (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/104-105.


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

There were no horizontal amendments either, so the wording of the provision is unchanged. After renumbering it became Article 239 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the consolidated version of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/154):


Article 239 TFEU
(ex Article 206 TEC)

Where a vote is taken, any Member of the Council may also act on behalf of not more than one other member.


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Does it matter?

Article 11(3) of the Council’s Rules of Procedure (consolidated version of 1 January 2009) reiterates the wording of Article 206 TEC, without adding anything.

According to Article 203 TEC, the Council shall consist of a representative of each member state at ministerial level, authorised to commit the government of that member state.

The contents of Article 16(2) of the amended Treaty on European Union (TEU), in the consolidated Lisbon Treaty, are practically the same:

“The Council shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level, who may
commit the government of the Member State in question and cast its vote.”

In other words, a representative at ministerial level may transfer his vote to another member of the Council.

The procedure offers the possibility to reach a unanimous decision, if a member is unable to attend, or to reach the needed majority for a decision.

The maximum possible would be 13 member states transferring their votes to as many other members.

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Participation

Sometimes a government minister is absent, and a high-ranking official, such as a Secretary of State or the EU ambassador (permanent representative) participates in the deliberations, but the wording of the provisions seems to exclude the right to vote.


Article 4 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure provides for representation:


Article 4
Representation of a Council member unable to attend

Subject to the provisions of Article 11 on the delegation of voting rights, a member of the Council who is prevented from attending a meeting may arrange to be represented.


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If I remember correctly, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac made a show of Franco-German amity at one meeting of the European Council, when Schröder left the meeting to attend to domestic politics and said that he would be represented by the French President.

(I failed in my modest efforts to find confirmation, but perhaps some reader of this blog can add a reference.)


Ralf Grahn