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v t e
The procedures for voting in the Council of the
1 Qualified majority voting
Treaty of Rome
2 Treaty of Lisbon
2.1 Voting practice 2.2 Policy areas
3 Unanimity 4 External links 5 Notes 6 References
Qualified majority voting This section presents the former qualified majority voting systems employed in the Council of the European Union, and its predecessor institutions. While some policy areas require unanimity among Council members, for selected policy areas qualified majority voting has existed right from the start. All major treaties have shifted some policy areas from unanimity to qualified majority voting. Whenever the community was enlarged, voting weights for new members were defined and thresholds re-adjusted by accession treaties. After its inception in 1958, the most notable changes to the voting system occurred:
with the 1973 enlargement, when the number of votes for the largest member states was increased from 4 to 10, with the Treaty of Nice, when the maximum number of votes was increased to 29, thresholds became defined in terms of percentages, and a direct population-dependent condition was introduced, with the Treaty of Lisbon, when the concept of votes was abandoned in favour of a "double majority" depending only on the number of states and the population represented.
All systems prescribed higher thresholds for passing acts that were
not proposed by the Commission. Member states have to cast their votes
en bloc (i.e., a member state may not split its votes). Hence, the
number of votes rather describes the weight of a member's single vote.
The analysis of the distribution of voting power under different
voting rules in the EU Council often requires the use of complex
computational methods that go beyond a mere calculation of vote share,
such as the Shapley-Shubik index or the Banzhaf measure.
Treaty of Rome
12 votes (if the act was proposed by the Commission), or 12 votes by at least 4 member states (if the act was not proposed by the Commission).
The values above are related to the EU-6, the founding member states. The treaty allocated the votes as follows:
4 votes: France, Germany, Italy, 2 votes: Belgium, Netherlands, 1 vote: Luxembourg.
Under this system,
41 votes (if the act was proposed by the Commission), or 41 votes by at least 6 member states (if the act was not proposed by the Commission).
These values were now related to the EU-9. The treaty allocated the votes as follows:
10 votes: France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, 5 votes: Belgium, Netherlands, 3 votes: Denmark, Ireland, 2 votes: Luxembourg.
Accession Treaty (1979–1985) Article 148 of the EEC Treaty, specifying the qualified majority voting system of the Council, was amended by Article 14 of the Accession Treaty regulating the enlargement of the community by Greece. Acts of the Council now required for their adoption:
45 votes (if the act was proposed by the Commission), or 45 votes by at least 6 member states (if the act was not proposed by the Commission).
The votes allocated previously to the EU-9 did not change.
54 votes (if the act was proposed by the Commission), or 54 votes by at least 8 member states (if the act was not proposed by the Commission).
The votes allocated previously to the EU-10 did not change. To the new members, the following votes were allocated:
8 votes: Spain, 5 votes: Portugal.
Treaty of Maastricht
62 votes (if the act was proposed by the Commission), or 62 votes by at least 10 member states (if the act was not proposed by the Commission).
The votes allocated previously to the EU-12 did not change. To the new members, the following votes were allocated:
4 votes: Austria, Sweden, 3 votes: Finland.
Treaty of Nice
Comparison of voting weights Population in millions as of 1 January 2003 
Member state Population Nice Penrose
Germany 82.54m 16.5% 29 8.4% 9.55%
France 59.64m 12.9% 29 8.4% 8.11%
UK 59.33m 12.4% 29 8.4% 8.09%
Italy 57.32m 12.0% 29 8.4% 7.95%
Spain 41.55m 9.0% 27 7.8% 6.78%
Poland 38.22m 7.6% 27 7.8% 6.49%
Romania 21.77m 4.3% 14 4.1% 4.91%
Netherlands 16.19m 3.3% 13 3.8% 4.22%
Greece 11.01m 2.2% 12 3.5% 3.49%
Portugal 10.41m 2.1% 12 3.5% 3.39%
Belgium 10.36m 2.1% 12 3.5% 3.38%
Czech Rep. 10.20m 2.1% 12 3.5% 3.35%
Hungary 10.14m 2.0% 12 3.5% 3.34%
Sweden 8.94m 1.9% 10 2.9% 3.14%
Austria 8.08m 1.7% 10 2.9% 2.98%
Bulgaria 7.85m 1.5% 10 2.9% 2.94%
Denmark 5.38m 1.1% 7 2.0% 2.44%
Slovakia 5.38m 1.1% 7 2.0% 2.44%
Finland 5.21m 1.1% 7 2.0% 2.39%
Ireland 3.96m 0.9% 7 2.0% 2.09%
Lithuania 3.46m 0.7% 7 2.0% 1.95%
Latvia 2.33m 0.5% 4 1.2% 1.61%
Slovenia 2.00m 0.4% 4 1.2% 1.48%
Estonia 1.36m 0.3% 4 1.2% 1.23%
Cyprus 0.72m 0.2% 4 1.2% 0.89%
Luxembourg 0.45m 0.1% 4 1.2% 0.70%
Malta 0.40m 0.1% 3 0.9% 0.66%
EU 484.20m 100% 345 100% 100%
The voting system of the Council as defined in the Treaty of Nice entered into force on 1 February 2003. The voting weights of the member states according to this treaty are shown in the table on the right. The voting system was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon, effective 1 November 2014.[a] The following conditions applied to taking decisions:
Majority of countries: 50% + one, if proposal made by the Commission; or else at least two-thirds (66.67%), and Majority of voting weights: 74%, and Majority of population: 62%.
The last condition was only checked upon request by a member state. In the absence of consensus, qualified majority voting was the Council's key way of decision-making. In terms of the statistics before Croatia became a member of the EU (1 July 2013), the pass condition translated into:
At least 14 (or 18, if proposal was not made by the Commission) countries, At least 255 of the total 345 voting weights, At least 311 million people represented by the states that vote in favour.
The last requirement was almost always already implied by the
condition on the number of voting weights. The rare exceptions to this
could occur in certain cases when a proposal was backed by exactly
three of the six most populous member states but not including
Germany, that is, three of France, UK, Italy,
At least 15 (or 18, if proposal was not made by the Commission) countries, At least 260 of the total 352 voting weights, At least 313.6 million people represented by the states that vote in favour.
Penrose method (rejected)
Majority of voting weights: 61.4%.
Treaty of Lisbon
Article 16 of the "Treaty on European Union", as amended by the
Treaty of Lisbon, stipulates that the Council voting arrangements of
Majority of countries: 55% (comprising at least 16 of them), or 72% if acting on a proposal from neither the Commission nor from the High Representative, and Majority of population: 65%.
A blocking minority requires—in addition to not meeting one of the
two conditions above—that at least 4 countries (or, if not all
countries participate in the vote, the minimum number of countries
representing more than 35% of the population of the participating
countries, plus one country) vote against the proposal. Thus, there
may be cases where an act is passed, even though the population
condition is not met. This precludes scenarios where 3 populous
countries could block a decision against the other 25 countries.
Note that the Lisbon rules eradicated the use of "artificial" voting
weights. This move, first proposed in the Constitution, is based on
the size of populations and, at the same time, acknowledges the
smaller member states' fears of being overruled by the larger
In practice, the Council targeted unanimous decisions, and qualified
majority voting was often simply used as a means to pressure
compromises for consensus. For example, in 2008, 128 out of 147
Council decisions were unanimous. Within the remaining decisions,
there was a total of 32 abstentions and 8 votes against the respective
decision. These opposing votes were cast twice by
Area Nice Lisbon Reference
Initiatives of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Unanimity QMV following unanimous request 15b TEU
Rules concerning the Armaments Agency Unanimity QMV 28D§2 TEU
Freedom to establish a business Unanimity QMV 50 TFEU
Self-employment access rights Unanimity QMV 50 TFEU
Freedom, security and justice – cooperation and evaluation Unanimity QMV 70 TFEU
Border checks Unanimity QMV 77 TFEU
Asylum Unanimity QMV 78 TFEU
Immigration Unanimity QMV 79 TFEU
Crime prevention incentives Unanimity QMV 69c TFEU
Eurojust Unanimity QMV 69d TFEU
Police cooperation Unanimity QMV 69f TFEU
Europol Unanimity QMV 69g TFEU
Transport Unanimity QMV 71§2 TFEU
European Central Bank Unanimity QMV (in part) 129 TFEU, 283 TFEU
Culture Unanimity QMV 151 TFEU
Structural and Cohension Funds Unanimity QMV 161 TFEU
Organisation of the Council of the European Union Unanimity QMV 201b TFEU
European Court of Justice Unanimity QMV 245, 224a, 225a TFEU
Freedom of movement for workers Unanimity QMV 46 TFEU
Social security Unanimity QMV 48 TFEU
Criminal judicial cooperation Unanimity QMV 69a TFEU
Criminal law Unanimity QMV 69b TFEU
President of the
Foreign Affairs High Representative election (New item) QMV 9e§1 TEU
Funding the Common Foreign and Security Policy Unanimity QMV 28 TEU
Common defense policy Unanimity QMV 28e TEU
Withdrawal of a member state (new item) QMV 49a TEU
General economic interest services Unanimity QMV 16 TFEU
Diplomatic and consular protection Unanimity QMV 20 TFEU
Citizens initiative regulations Unanimity QMV 21 TFEU
Intellectual property Unanimity QMV 97a TFEU
Sport Unanimity QMV 149 TFEU
Space Unanimity QMV 172a TFEU
Energy Unanimity QMV 176a TFEU
Tourism Unanimity QMV 176b TFEU
Civil protection Unanimity QMV 176c TFEU
Administrative cooperation Unanimity QMV 176d TFEU
Emergency international aid Unanimity QMV 188i TFEU
Humanitarian aid Unanimity QMV 188j TFEU
Response to natural disasters or terrorism (new item) QMV 188R§3 TFEU
Economic and Social Committee QMV QMV 256a TFEU
Committee of the Regions Unanimity QMV 256a TFEU
Economic and Social Committee Unanimity QMV 256a TFEU
The EU budget Unanimity QMV 269 TFEU
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Certain policy fields remain subject to unanimity in whole or in part, such as:
membership of the Union (opening of accession negotiations, association, serious violations of the Union's values, etc.);
change the status of an overseas country or territory (OCT) to an outermost region (OMR) or vice versa.
taxation; the finances of the Union (own resources, the multiannual financial framework); harmonisation in the field of social security and social protection; certain provisions in the field of justice and home affairs (the European prosecutor, family law, operational police cooperation, etc.); the flexibility clause (352 TFEU) allowing the Union to act to achieve one of its objectives in the absence of a specific legal basis in the treaties; the common foreign and security policy, with the exception of certain clearly defined cases; the common security and defence policy, with the exception of the establishment of permanent structured cooperation; citizenship (the granting of new rights to European citizens, anti-discrimination measures); certain institutional issues (the electoral system and composition of the Parliament, certain appointments, the composition of the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, the seats of the institutions, the language regime, the revision of the treaties, including the bridging clauses, etc.).
Voting Calculator for Council decisions A detailed summary of qualified majority voting BBC: Background on the voting weights discussion Analysis and history of voting weights in the Council New winners and old losers. A priori voting power in the EU25 Article at EUABC europa.eu.int: Full text of the Constitution – Title IV article I-25 Completion of the 5-th enlargement and institutional changes (votes in Council and European Parliament including Bulgaria's and Romania's from 1 Jan 2007) "Enlargement and institutional changes". The European Commission Representation in Ireland. 16 March 2004. Archived from the original on 24 December 2005. Retrieved 29 June 2009. For context, subsections of this document are entitled "The European Commission", "The Council of the European Union" and "European Parliament".
^ a b However, any member state could request that the Nice system still be used for a particular vote, until 31 March 2017.
^ e.g. Diego Varela and Javier Prado-Dominguez (2012) 'Negotiating the
Lisbon treaty: Redistribution, efficiency and power indices', AUCO
Czech Economic Review 6(2): 107-124.
^ "Treaty of Rome" (TIF). Treaty establishing the European Economic
Community. Official Journal of the European Communities at EUR-Lex.
1957. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
^ "Accession of Denmark, Ireland and the
Article 311 shall be repealed. A new Article 311a shall be inserted,
with the wording of Article 299(2), first subparagraph, and Article
299(3) to (6); the text shall be amended as follows:
(e) the following new paragraph shall be added at the end of the
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