Sunday 22 March 2009

Lisbon Treaty & European Council: Voting rules

The voting rules for the European Council are essentially the same as for the Council. They are the results of the political blackmail invited by the requirement to agree unanimously on treaty amendments.



European Council voting

Article 235 TFEU lays down the voting rules for the European Council. The provision offers a member the possibility to be represented by another (as did take place between Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac).

The President of the European Council and the President of the Commission do not take part in the vote.

The same rules apply as to the Council: the definition of a qualified majority from 1 November 2014 and a blocking majority (Article 16(4) TEU). But further details are needed (Article 238(2) TFEU and the Protocol on transitional provisions) to come to grips with the applicable rules.

Abstentions offer less enthusiastic members an opportunity to show detachment without wrecking the progress of others when unanimous decisions are needed.

Procedural questions and the adoption of the European Council’s Rules of Procedure require only a simple majority:

Article 235 TFEU

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

Article 16(4) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 238(2) of this Treaty shall apply to the European Council when it is acting by a qualified majority. Where the European Council decides by vote, its President and the President of the Commission shall not take part in the vote.

Abstentions by members present in person or represented shall not prevent the adoption by the European Council of acts which require unanimity.

2. The President of the European Parliament may be invited to be heard by the European Council.

3. The European Council shall act by a simple majority for procedural questions and for the adoption of its Rules of Procedure.

4. The European Council shall be assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council.


To see the full mess, read Article 3 of Protocol (No 36) on transitional provisions, with provisions concerning the qualified majority.

(Negotiating treaties under multiple unanimity rules leaves its marks on the results, and they leave one wondering if they are in anybody’s interest, national or other.)

Ralf Grahn

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