This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Information on working parties'.



Conseil de l'Union européenne
Secrétariat général  
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175
1048 Bruxelles/Brussel
BELGIQUE/BELGIË
Tel. +32 (0)2 281 61 11
www.consilium.europa.eu
COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S 
RULES OF PROCEDURE 
EUROPEAN COUNCIL’S AND 
COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE

Print
PDF
QC-04-15-692-EN-C
QC-04-15-692-EN-N
Print
PDF
QC-04-15-692-EN-C
QC-04-15-692-EN-N



COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S 
RULES OF PROCEDURE 
EUROPEAN COUNCIL’S AND 
COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE


Notice
This publication is produced by the General Secretariat of the Council and is 
intended for information purposes only. It does not involve the responsibility of 
the EU institutions or the member states.
For further information on the European Council and the Council, see the website:
www.consilium.europa.eu
or contact the Public Information Service of the General Secretariat of the Council:
 
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175
1048 Bruxel es/Brussel
BELGIQUE/BELGIË
Tel. +32 (0)2 281 56 50
Fax +32 (0)2 281 49 77
[email address]
www.consilium.europa.eu/infopublic
Visit our websit
ebsit e:
e:  
www.consilium.europa.eu
More information on the European Union is available on www.europa.eu. 
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016
Print QC-04-15-692-EN-C
PDF QC-04-15-692-EN-N
© European Union, 2016
Reuse is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.
 
 
Traités_Test.indd   1-3
23/11/2015   12:23

CONTENTS
FOREWORD  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  7
PART 1 – COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  9 
INTRODUCTION   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 11
CHAPTER I – COUNCIL STRUCTURE   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 13

1.  The Council as a single legal entity  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.  Council configurations (Article 2 and Annex I CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
A – General  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
B – General Affairs configuration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
C – Foreign Affairs configuration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
D – Representation of the Member States in the Council   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
3.  Coreper, committees and working parties (Articles 19 and 21 CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
A – Coreper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
B – Committees set up by the Treaties or by the Council . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
C – Committees and working parties set up by Coreper  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
D – Presidency of Council preparatory bodies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.  The Presidency and the smooth conduct of discussions
(Article 20 and Annex V CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
5.  The Secretary-General and the Council General Secretariat (Article 23 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . 26
A – The Secretary-General  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
B – The General Secretariat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
CHAPTER II – THE COUNCIL’S PROCEEDINGS  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 29
1.  Programming of the Council proceedings (Article 2(6) and (7) CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
2.  Notice and venue of meetings (Article 1 CRP)   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
A – Notice  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
B – Venue of meetings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.  Agenda (Article 3 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
A – Drawing up of the provisional agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
B – Adoption of the definitive agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
C – Structure and contents of the agenda  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
4.  Professional secrecy (Articles 5 and 6 CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
A – Participation in Council meetings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
B – Presence at Council meetings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
5.  Minutes (Article 13 CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
A – Structure and content of the minutes  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
B – Approval of minutes   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   3

6.  Public access and transparency (Articles 5 to 10 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
A – Legislative deliberations, public deliberations and debates   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
B – Making agendas public   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
C – The making public of votes, explanations of votes, statements in the 
minutes and minutes (Article 7 and 9 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
D – Public access to documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
7.  Language rules (Article 14 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
A – Language rules applying to the constituent Treaties  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
B – Language rules applying to the institutions of the European Union (official 
languages and working languages) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
C – Use of additional languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
CHAPTER III – COUNCIL DECISION-MAKING  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 53
1.  Voting arrangements (Article 11 CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
A – Decision to take a vote  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
B – Voting procedure  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
C – Absence of the possibility to participate in the vote   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
2.  Quorum and delegation of voting rights (Articles 4 and 11 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
A – Quorum  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
B – Delegation of voting rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
3.  Written procedure (Article 12 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
A – Ordinary written procedure  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
B – Simplified written procedure (‘silence procedure’)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
CHAPTER IV – COUNCIL ACTS AND THEIR FORM   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 63
1.  Signing of acts (Article 15 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
2.  Title and form of regulations (Annex VI, Part A.1 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
3.  Structure of regulations (Annex VI, Part A.2, 3 and 4 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
4.  Title and form of other acts of secondary legislation (Annex VI, Part B CRP) . . . . . . . . . . 66
5.  Form of Decisions referred to in Article 25 TEU (Annex VI, Part C CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
6.  Atypical acts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
7.  Publication of acts in the Official Journal of the European Union (Article 17 CRP)  . . . . 68
8.  Notification and transmission of acts (Article 18 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
CHAPTER V – OTHER PROVISIONS   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 71
1.  Security (Article 24 CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
2.  Depositary of agreements (Article 25 CRP)   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
3.  Representation of the Council before the European Parliament (Article 26 CRP)  . . . . . 72
4.  Correspondence (Article 28 CRP)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
4  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

PART 2 – RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 75 
PART 3 – RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 83

ANNEX I -   List of Council configurations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
ANNEX II -  Specific provisions regarding public access to Council documents  . . . . . . . . 105
ANNEX III - Figures concerning the population of the Union and the population
of each Member State for implementing the provisions concerning 
qualified majority voting in the Council  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
ANNEX IV - Referred to in Article 16  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
ANNEX V -  Council working methods   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
ANNEX VI - Provisions concerning the forms of acts  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   5


FOREWORD
The main purpose of the Comments on the Council’s Rules of Procedure is to help 
the rotating Presidencies, the members of the Council and the officials of the 
General Secretariat of the Council find their way through the legal environment, 
and especial y the changes resulting from the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
This publication has been compiled under the sole responsibility of the General 
Secretariat. It is an internal working document and has no legal force.
I hope that this guide will prove useful to delegations and to our colleagues in the 
General Secretariat, and that it will answer many of the questions which may arise 
as to the functioning of the Council.
The relevant services of the Secretariat will of course be happy to provide any 
further information required.
 
Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen
 Secretary-General
 

Council of the European Union
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   7


PART 1  
COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF 
PROCEDURE
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   9


INTRODUCTION
The Council’s Rules of Procedure (hereinafter referred to as ‘CRP’) constitute 
an essential instrument for the smooth operation of the institution. Within the 
framework established by the Treaty on European Union (hereinafter referred to 
as ‘TEU’) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter 
referred to as ‘TFEU’), the CRP lay down a series of provisions governing the 
Council’s proceedings.
Like earlier editions, this edition of the Comments on the CRP is not intended 
to be exhaustive or to state the legal position but rather to serve as a practical 
guide for members of the Council and their representatives. It is divided into five 
chapters:
I.     Council structure
II.    Council proceedings
III.   Council decision-making
IV.   Council acts and their form
V.    Other provisions.
The twenty-eight Articles of the CRP have been grouped together by subject 
under these five chapters. The CRP, in the latest version of 1 December 20091, 
are reproduced in Annex with the updated figures of the EU population for 2016. 

Council Decision 2009/937/EU of 1 December 2009 adopting the Council’s Rules of 
Procedure (OJ L 325, 11.12.2009, p. 35).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   11


CHAPTER I – COUNCIL STRUCTURE
Although it meets in different configurations depending on the subject 
matter dealt with, the Council of the European Union is a single legal entity. Its 
proceedings are prepared by a Committee of Permanent Representatives of 
the Member States (known as ‘Coreper’) and by specialised committees and 
working parties. The Council, whose President ensures that its proceedings run 
smoothly, is assisted by the General Secretariat, placed under the responsibility 
of a Secretary-General.
1. THE COUNCIL AS A SINGLE LEGAL ENTITY
The CRP apply to the Council itself (i.e. at the level of Ministers) and to its 
preparatory bodies (Coreper, committees and working parties). 
The Council is a single legal entity which may meet in different configurations 
(‘Agriculture and Fisheries’, ‘Environment’, etc.) according to the subject matter 
dealt with (Article 2(1) CRP). Except for the configurations ‘General Affairs’ and 
‘Foreign Affairs’ (Article 16(6) TEU Article 2(2), (4) and (5) CRP), the specialisation 
or remit of each configuration is not stated but follows from practice. The 
number of configurations was reduced from 22 to 16 in 2000 and then to nine 
in 2002. Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon it has increased to ten 
through the splitting of the former General Affairs and External Relations Council 
into two Council configurations. The procedure to establish the list of Council 
configurations, other than the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs 
Council, is laid down in Article 236 TFEU (see point 2.A).
The fact that the Council is a single legal entity has three consequences.
Firstly, a legal act concerning any subject fal ing within the Union’s competence 
can be formal y adopted by any Council configuration. For example, a Council 
configuration can adopt as an ‘A’ item a text fal ing within the remit of another 
configuration. A Council act has the same legal value regardless of the 
configuration which adopted it.
Secondly, because the Council is a single legal entity, there is no hierarchy among 
the different Council configurations. However, it is necessary to underline the 
coordinating role of the General Affairs Council (see point 2.B) and its responsibility 
for institutional, administrative and horizontal matters, as well as the specific remit 
of the Foreign Affairs Council. The latter’s task is to ‘elaborate the Union’s external 
action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council 
and ensure that the Union’s action is consistent’ (see point 2.C). Arbitration is 
a matter for the European Council which, in accordance with Article 15(1) TEU, 
‘shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and 
shall define the general political directions and priorities thereof’.
Thirdly, since the Council is a single legal entity, the office of the Presidency of the 
Council is also a single office. Thus, the rules applicable to the Presidency apply to 
any person chairing any one of the Council configurations, including the Foreign 
Affairs configuration, or, as appropriate, any person chairing one of the Council’s 
preparatory bodies, unless the CRP specify otherwise (Article 1(5) second sub-
paragraph CRP).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   13

2. COUNCIL CONFIGURATIONS (ARTICLE 2 AND ANNEX I CRP)
A – General
The European Council, acting by qualified majority, establishes (or amends) the 
list of configurations in which the Council meets, other than those of the General 
Affairs Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council, (Article 2(1) CRP, Article 236 TFEU). 
Article 4 of the Protocol on transitional provisions provides that until the entry into 
force of the European Council decision referred to in Article 16(6) TEU, the list of 
Council configurations should be established by the General Affairs Council, 
acting by a simple majority. This list was established on 1 December 20092. It was 
amended on 16 September 20103 and is set out in Annex I to the CRP.
The ten configurations of the Council are as follows:
1.   General Affairs;
2.   Foreign Affairs4;
3.   Economic and Financial Affairs5;
4.   Justice and Home Affairs6;
5.   Employment, Social Policy, Heath and Consumer Affairs;
6.   Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space)7;
7.   Transport, Telecommunications and Energy;
8.   Agriculture and Fisheries;
9.   Environment;
10. Education, Youth, Culture and Sport8.
Joint meetings of two or more Council configurations (‘Jumbo meetings’) 
are now a rarity. More than one minister may, however, take part in the same 
Council configuration. In that case, the Presidency should organise the Council’s 
proceedings by grouping together linked agenda items so that each member of 
the Council concerned can participate more easily.
It is not unusual for the members of the Council to continue their discussions at 
the meals which are organised on the occasion of Council meetings; however, 
it should be noted that such events do not form part of the official Council 
meetings and that any decisions taken or conclusions reached must therefore be 
adopted in the official meeting.

Decision 2009/878/EU of the Council (General Affairs) of 1 December 2009 
establishing the list of Council configurations in addition to those referred to in the 
second and third subparagraphs of Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union 
(OJ L315 of 2.12.2009, p.46).

European Council Decision 2010/594/EU of 16 September 2010 amending the list 
of Council configurations (OJ L263 of 6.10.2010, p.12).

Including the European Security and Defence Policy and Development Cooperation.

Including budget.

Including civil protection.

Including tourism.

Including audio-visual affairs.
14  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

Final y, it is a constant practice that each Council Presidency organises informal 
meetings of ministers. Such meetings are not Council meetings and cannot take 
the place of Council activities. The aim of these informal meetings is to enable 
joint reflection and an exchange of views that is as free as possible on topics of 
general scope. These meetings are outside the framework and the procedural 
rules laid down by the Treaties and are not subject to the CRP. In order to preserve 
the informal nature of these meetings, it was decided at the European Council 
meeting in Helsinki held on 10 and 11 December 1999 that there should be 
no agenda and that the discussions cannot give rise either to the production 
of documents, before or after the meeting, or to the drafting of conclusions or 
formal decisions. Any press releases must indicate clearly the informal nature of 
these meetings. It was also decided to limit the number of informal Ministerial 
meetings to five per Presidency9. 
B – General Affairs configuration
The General Affairs Council carries out the preparations for and follow-up to the 
meetings of the European Council in liaison with the President of the European 
Council and the Commission (Article 16(6) second sub-paragraph TEU), including 
the coordination of all preparatory work, the general coordination of policies, 
institutional and administrative questions, horizontal dossiers affecting more than 
one Union policy, such as the multi-annual financial framework and enlargement, 
and any dossier sent by the European Council, taking into account the operating 
rules of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). It also ensures consistency in the 
work of the different Council configurations in cooperation with the Commission 
(Article 2(2) CRP).
The arrangements for the preparation of the European Council are provided 
for in Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Council (Article 2(3) 
CRP). At least four weeks before each ordinary meeting of the European Council, 
the President of the European Council draws up an annotated draft agenda in 
close cooperation with the Member State holding the Presidency of the Council 
and with the President of the Commission and forwards it to the General Affairs 
Council. The General Affairs Council discusses draft guidelines for the European 
Council conclusions, draft conclusions and draft decisions of the European Council 
prepared by the President of the European Council, in the same framework of 
close cooperation as for the annotated draft agenda. The General Affairs Council 
also holds a final preparatory meeting in the five days preceding the European 
Council meeting, following which the provisional agenda is drawn up by the 
President of the European Council. No item may subsequently be added without 
the agreement of all delegations. To ensure the best possible preparation of the 
proceedings of the European Council, no other configuration of the Council or 
preparatory committee for a Council may meet, to discuss a subject submitted 
to the European Council, between the final preparatory meeting of the General 
Affairs Council and the European Council meeting, except for imperative and 
unforeseeable reasons linked, for example, to current international events. The 
other Council configurations must therefore send their contributions to the 

See Section E of the Presidency conclusions of the Helsinki European Council in 
December 1999: ‘Informal meetings of Ministers … are not Council sessions and 
cannot replace the Council’s normal activities. … A maximum of five informal 
Ministerial meetings may be held during any Presidency’.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   15

proceedings of the European Council to the General Affairs Council at the latest 
two weeks before the European Council meeting. The definitive agenda is 
adopted at the beginning of the European Council meeting.
C – Foreign Affairs configuration
The Foreign Affairs Council elaborates the Union’s external action on the basis of 
strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensures consistency 
of that action (Article 16(6) TEU and Article 2(5) CRP). It is responsible for the 
European Union’s external action as regards common foreign and security policy, 
common security and defence policy, common commercial policy, development 
cooperation and humanitarian aid (Article 2(5) CRP).
The Foreign Affairs configuration is chaired by the High Representative of the 
Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (hereinafter referred to as the 
‘High Representative’). It is, however, possible for the High Representative to be 
replaced by the member in the Foreign Affairs Council representing the Member 
State holding the Council Presidency (Article 2(5) second sub-paragraph CRP). 
This will normal y be the case when the Council is convened to discuss common 
commercial policy issues10.
D – Representation of the Member States in the Council
According to Annex I to the CRP, ‘It is for each Member State to determine the 
way in which it is represented in the Council, in accordance with Article 16(2) TEU’.
Article 16(2) TEU states that ‘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’. It follows, first of al , that each 
Member State must be represented by a Government member (Minister or 
State Secretary). It also follows from the wording of this provision that federal 
or decentralised States may also be represented by members of regional 
governments on condition that they are able ‘to commit the government of [the] 
Member State’ in question, i.e. the federal or central government.
Without prejudice to Article 16(2) TEU and the rules on the quorum (see Chapter II , 
point 2.A), it is for each member of the Council to compose his or her delegation 
in the way which he or she deems appropriate11. He or she may be accompanied 
by officials who assist him or her. It should be noted that it follows from the system 
of the Treaties, and from Article 16 TEU in particular, that the representation of the 
governments of the Member States of the Council is composed of nationals of the 
Member State concerned or, in any event, of a national of one of the Member States 
of the European Union. Therefore, the presence at a Council meeting of a national 
10 
See statement (a) regarding Article 2(5) second subparagraph CRP which provides, 
‘When the Foreign Affairs Council is convened to discuss common commercial 
policy issues, its President will ask to be replaced by the six-monthly Presidency as 
provided for in Article 2(5) second subparagraph.’
11 
The Council may, in accordance with Article 5(3) CRP, limit the maximum number of 
persons per delegation present in the Council meeting room.
16  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

of a third State as a member of the delegation of a member of the Council should 
be ruled out, as it could be regarded by the other members of the Council 
as a factor which could affect the decision-making autonomy of the Council12.
Article 5(3) CRP lays down that the names and functions of the officials forming 
part of the delegation of a member of the Council must be notified in advance 
to the General Secretariat. Admission to Council meetings is subject to the 
production of a pass issued by the General Secretariat.
A member of the Council who is prevented from attending a meeting may arrange 
to be represented (Article 4 CRP). In practice, that member is represented by the 
Permanent Representative or his or her Deputy. However, the representative has 
no right to vote as the right to vote may only be exercised by a member of the 
Council. In accordance with Article 239 TFEU, which is reproduced in the CRP 
(Article 11(3) CRP), ‘Where a vote is taken, any member of the Council may also 
act on behalf of not more than one other member’ (also known as delegation of 
voting rights; see Chapter II , point 2.B). Where a member of the Council arranges 
to be represented by a person who does not meet the definition of ‘member of 
the Council’ within the meaning of Article 16(2) TEU, that representative is not 
included for the purposes of verifying the quorum.
3. COREPER, COMMITTEES AND WORKING PARTIES 
     (ARTICLES 19 AND 21 CRP)
A – Coreper
As its name indicates, Coreper is composed of the Permanent Representatives of 
the Governments of the Member States to the European Union. The reference to 
‘Governments’ was added in Article 16(7) TEU and in Article 240(1) TFEU by the 
Treaty of Lisbon in order to underline that Permanent Representations express the 
position of their Government. Coreper is divided into two parts, the first (Coreper 
Part 1) being composed of the Deputy Permanent Representatives, the second 
(Coreper Part 2) being composed of the Permanent Representatives themselves.
In accordance with Article 19(1) CRP, Coreper prepares the work of the Council 
and carries out the tasks assigned to it by the Council; it ensures consistency of 
the Union’s policies and actions and observance of the following principles and 
rules:
–  the principles of legality, subsidiarity, proportionality and providing reasons for 
acts;
– rules establishing the powers of Union institutions, bodies, offices and 
agencies;
–  budgetary provisions;
–  rules on procedure, transparency and the quality of drafting.
12 
This question is different from that concerning the arrangements for the presence 
of representatives of third States or international organisations at all or part of any 
given Council meeting. See Chapter II, point 4.B.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   17

As allowed by the Treaty (Article 240(1), last sentence, TFEU), it may adopt the 
following procedural decisions13, provided that the items relating thereto have 
been included on its provisional agenda at least three working days before the 
meeting; unanimity on the part of Coreper being required for any derogation 
from that period (Article 19(7) CRP):
– decision to hold a Council meeting in a place other than Brussels or 
Luxembourg;
–  authorisation to produce a copy of or an extract from a Council document for 
use in legal proceedings;
–  decision to hold a public debate in the Council or not to hold in public a given 
Council deliberation;
–  decision to make the results of votes and the statements entered in the Council 
minutes public in the cases laid down in Article 9(2) CRP;
–  decision to use the written procedure;
–  approval or amendment of Council minutes;
–  decision to publish or not to publish a text or an act in the Official Journal;
–  decision to consult an institution or body wherever such consultation is not 
required by the Treaties;
–  decision setting or extending a time limit for consultation of an institution or 
body;
–  decision to extend the periods laid down in Article 294(14) TFEU;
–  approval of the wording of a letter to be sent to an institution or body.
Procedural decisions often do not take a particular form, except for a mention in 
Coreper’s summary of proceedings. A letter to be sent to an institution or body 
may be signed by the Chairman of Coreper.
Coreper Part 1 prepares the work of six Council configurations (Agriculture 
and Fisheries, Competitiveness, Transport, Telecommunications and Energy, 
Environment, Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, Employment, Social 
Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs). Coreper Part 2 prepares the work of four 
configurations (General Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Economic and Financial Affairs 
and Justice and Home Affairs).
The chief role of Coreper is to coordinate and prepare the work of the different 
Council configurations and to attempt to find, at its level, an agreement which 
will subsequently be submitted for adoption by the Council.
In this framework, Coreper ensures adequate presentation of each file to the 
Council. It evaluates the different aspects of the file, defines the options available 
and prepares the Council’s deliberations, drafting, where necessary, suggestions.
13 
The conclusion by a Presidency that, following a debate in Coreper, a file should be 
returned to the working party because, e.g., it is not yet ripe for submission to the 
Council or the opening of negotiations with the European Parliament, does not 
constitute a procedural decision as such but rather forms part of Coreper’s core 
function of being the Council’s principal preparatory body.
18  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

Coreper’s central role is il ustrated by the fact that all the items included on the 
Council’s agenda must be examined beforehand by Coreper (Part 1 or 2) unless, 
for reasons of urgency, the Council decides unanimously to settle the matter 
without prior examination or Coreper itself has decided (by a simple majority) to 
refrain from prior examination (Article 19(2) CRP).
It should, however, be emphasised that any agreement worked out by Coreper 
can always be called into question by the Council, which alone has the power 
to make decisions. Coreper is therefore neither an EU institution nor a decision-
making body which can replace the Council. It is certainly vested with its own 
powers (see the above list of procedural decisions which can be taken by Coreper), 
but it can reach a valid decision only in this limited sphere. It is a preparatory 
body or, as described by the Court of Justice, ‘an auxiliary body of the Council, for 
which it carries out preparation and implementation work. Coreper’s function of 
carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the Council does not give it the power to 
take decisions which belongs, under the Treaty, to the Council’14.
Coreper 2 is chaired by the Permanent Representative and Coreper 1 by the 
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Member State which holds the 
Presidency of the General Affairs Council (Article 19(4) CRP).
Coreper’s agenda is divided into two parts: I and II. Part I, like the A items on the 
Council’s agenda (see Chapter II, point 3), includes items which do not in principle 
require discussion, whereas Part II, like the B items on the Council’s agenda, entails 
discussion. If Coreper reaches agreement on a ‘I ’ item on its agenda, that item will 
normal y become an ‘A’ item on the Council’s agenda. When an item has been 
resolved at the level of the working party, it normal y becomes an ‘I/A’ item i.e. 
one which will be treated without discussion at Coreper or Council level.
In principle, Coreper meets every week. Preparations for its work are made the 
day before by the closest col aborators of the members of Coreper who meet 
under the name ‘Mertens Group’ for Coreper Part 1 and ‘Antici Group’ for Coreper 
Part 2. The Antici Group (named after its first Chairman) was set up in 1975 to 
review the agenda for Coreper Part 2 and settle technical and organisational 
details. The Mertens Group (also named after its first Chairman) was set up for the 
same purpose in 1993. That preparatory stage also makes it possible to form an 
initial idea of the positions which the various delegations will take at the Coreper 
meeting.
B – Committees set up by the Treaties or by the Council
The Treaties or Council decisions set up certain specific committees responsible 
for coordinating activities in a particular field. However, given the institutional 
unity provided for in the preamble to the TEU, those committees are without 
prejudice to Coreper’s central role. Each provision of the Treaty setting up one 
of those committees specifical y reserves application of Article 240 TFEU, i.e. 
Coreper’s general responsibility for preparing the work of the Council. Reports 
from those committees must be available in sufficient time before the Coreper 
meeting at which they are to be examined (Article 21 CRP).
14 
Judgment of the Court of 19 March 1996, Commission v. Council, Case C-25/94, 
ECJ 1966 3 I, points 26 and 27.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   19

The Economic and Financial Committee15, provided for by Article 134(2) TFEU, is 
responsible for monitoring the economic and financial situation of the Member 
States and of the Union and periodical y submitting a report on it to the Council 
and the Commission, and for delivering opinions for submission to the Council 
and the Commission. It is also responsible, without prejudice to Article 240 TFEU, 
for contributing to the preparation of the Council’s work in various fields, such 
as those concerning safeguard measures in the matter of movements of capital 
or those concerning the coordination of the economic policies of the Member 
States, and for carrying out the other tasks assigned to it by the Council. Final y, 
it is responsible for examining the situation as regards capital movements and 
freedom of payments. In addition to these tasks, the Committee monitors the 
monetary and financial situation and the general payments arrangements in 
the Member States which enjoy a derogation from the rules of Economic and 
Monetary Union. The particular role of this Committee is specifical y pointed 
out in a footnote to Article 19 CRP. Unusual y, the Commission’s staff provide the 
secretariat of this preparatory body of the Council, not the staff of the General 
Secretariat of the Council.
The  Economic Policy Committee16 contributes to preparing the work of the 
Council by providing economic analyses, methodological opinions and draft 
policy recommendations concerning, in particular, structural policies aimed at 
improving the potential for growth and employment in the Union. In carrying 
out its task, the Committee works in close cooperation with the Economic and 
Financial Committee when it reports to the Council. Here too, the Commission 
staff provide the secretariat, not the staff of the General Secretariat of the Council.
The Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA), set up in May 1960, is specifical y 
responsible for preparing many matters fal ing within the scope of the Agriculture 
and Fisheries Council. This Committee therefore plays the same role in the 
agricultural area (but not in the area of veterinary and plant health measures) 
as Coreper does in other areas. It is the only exception to Coreper’s monopoly 
in preparing the Council’s work. The items which the SCA has examined are 
therefore included directly on the agendas for the Agriculture and Fisheries 
Council.
The Special Committee for the Common Commercial Policy (known as the ‘Trade 
Policy Committee’ referred to in Article 207 TFEU), is responsible for assisting the 
Commission when, after receiving authorisation from the Council, it conducts 
negotiations for the conclusion of international trade agreements.
The Standing Committee set up to strengthen cooperation within the Union on 
internal security (known as ‘COSI’ and established by Article 71 TFEU) facilitates 
the coordination of Member States’ actions, without prejudice to Article 240 
TFEU17. 
15  Council Decision 1999/8/EC of 31 December 1998 adopting the Statutes of the 
Economic and Financial Committee (OJ L 5, 9.1.1999, p. 71).
16 
Council Decision 2000/604/EC of 29 September 2000 concerning the composition 
and the statutes of the Economic Policy Committee (OJ L 257, 11.10.2000, p. 28).
17  Council Decision 2010/131/EU of 25 February 2010 on setting up the Standing 
Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (OJ L 52, 3.3.2010, p. 50).
20  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

The Employment Committee18, set up in accordance with Article 150 TFEU, is 
responsible for monitoring the employment situation and employment policies 
in the Member States and in the Union and for delivering opinions, also without 
prejudice to Article 240 TFEU. The Commission is entrusted with the task of 
providing adequate analytical and organisational support for the Committee. 
In this respect one of the Commission’s staff acts as Secretary to assist the 
Committee. The Commission must, however, liaise with the General Secretariat 
of the Council with regard to the holding of meetings.
The Committee on Social Protection19, set up in accordance with Article 160 TFEU, 
delivers opinions at the request of the Council and the Commission or on its 
own initiative. The Committee’s task is to monitor the social situation and social 
protection policy developments in the Member States and in the Union, to 
promote exchanges of information, experience and good practice between 
the Member States and with the Commission, and to prepare reports, deliver 
opinions or undertake other action in the areas fal ing within its competence. 
Here too, the Commission is entrusted with the task of providing adequate 
analytical and organisational support for this Committee. In this respect one of 
the Commission’s staff acts as Secretary to assist the Committee. The Commission 
must, however, liaise with the General Secretariat of the Council with regard to 
the holding of meetings.
The Political and Security Committee (PSC), provided for in Article 38 TEU, plays 
a central role in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the 
Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It performs two functions20. Firstly, 
it monitors the international situation in the areas fal ing within the Common 
Foreign and Security Policy and contributes to the definition of policies, 
delivering opinions within the Council, without prejudice to Article 240 TFEU. 
Secondly, under the responsibility of the Council and of the High Representative, 
it ensures the political control and strategic direction of crisis management 
operations referred to in Article 43 TEU and may, within this framework and 
when it is empowered to do so by the Council, take decisions in this area. Under 
Article 19(4) CRP, this committee must be chaired by a representative of the High 
Representative21.
The Military Committee of the European Union (EUMC)22, which is composed of 
the Member States’ Chiefs of Defence, represented by their military representatives, 
is responsible for providing the PSC with advice and recommendations on all 
military matters within the EU. It exercises direction of all military activities within 
the EU framework.
18  Council Decision 2015/772/EU of 11 May 2015 establishing the Employment 
Committee and repealing Decision 2000/98/EC (OJ L 121, 14.05.2015, p. 12).
19  Council Decision 2015/773/EU of 11 May 2015 establishing a Social Protection 
Committee and repealing Decision 2004/689/EC (OJ L 121, 14.05.2015, p. 16).
20 
The Annex to the Council Decision of 22 January 2001 setting up the Political and 
Security Committee (OJ L 27, 30.1.2001, p. 1) defines these functions in detail.
21 
This rule is provided for in Article 2, second paragraph, of the European Council 
Decision of 1 December 2010 on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council (OJ 
L315 of 2.12.2009, p.50).
22  Council Decision No 2001/79/CFSP of 22 January 2001 setting up the Military 
Committee of the European Union (OJ L 27, 30.1.2001, p. 4).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   21

A Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM)23 is tasked 
with formulating recommendations and giving advice on civilian aspects of crisis 
management to the PSC and other appropriate Council bodies, in accordance 
with their respective areas of responsibility.
The  Security Committee24 is composed of representatives of the national 
security authorities of the Member States and is attended by a representative 
of the Commission and of the EEAS. It is chaired by the Secretary-General or 
his or her delegate, has the power to examine and assess all security matters 
relating to Council proceedings, and to make recommendations to the Council 
as appropriate. 
Lastly, the Financial Services Committee, set up in February 200325, is responsible 
for providing advice to the Council and the Commission on a range of financial 
market issues. More specifical y, the committee is responsible, amongst other 
things, for helping to define the medium- and long term strategy for financial 
services issues, providing political advice and following up both internal issues 
(e.g. single market, including implementation of the Financial Services action 
plan) and external issues (e.g. WTO).
C – Committees and working parties set up by Coreper
To help prepare the Council’s work, Coreper may set up committees or working 
parties and define their mandate (Article 19(3) CRP). These working parties are 
composed of delegates from each Member State. They may be more or less 
permanent as required. At present, there are roughly 150 such committees or 
working parties covering the range of the Council’s activities. A list of these 
preparatory bodies is regularly updated by the General Secretariat26. In line with 
the conclusions of the 1999 European Council in Helsinki, the Council and Coreper 
refrain from setting up any new high level working parties.
Reports from Council committees and working parties must be available in 
good time for the Coreper meeting at which they are to be examined. It is the 
responsibility of the Presidency, pursuant to Article 21(1) CRP, assisted by the 
General Secretariat, to organise the meetings of the various committees and 
working parties so that their reports are available before the Coreper meeting 
at which they are to be examined. To do so, before the start of its six-month 
term, the Presidency draws up a timetable of the meetings it plans to hold for 
the various working parties and committees. That timetable has to be adjusted 
in accordance with the progress of proceedings. Article 21 CRP lays down that 
the Presidency must postpone to a subsequent Coreper meeting any legislative 
items which the committee or working party has not finished discussing at least 
five working days prior to Coreper’s meeting, unless considerations of urgency 
require otherwise.
23 
Council Decision No 2000/354/CFSP of 22 May 2000 setting up a Committee for 
civilian aspects of crisis management (OJ L 127, 27.5.2000, p. 1).
24 
Council Decision No 2013/488/EU of 23 September 2013 on the security rules for 
protecting EU classified information (OJ L 274, 15.10.2013, p. 1).
25 
Council Decision No 2003/165/EC of 18 February 2003 concerning the establishment 
of the Financial Services Committee (OJ L 67, 12.3.2003, p. 17).
26 
The full and updated list is contained in Council document 10356/15 of 28 July 2015.
22  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

If a working party reaches agreement on a file, the item concerned is placed on 
the agenda for Coreper (as an I-item) and then normal y entered as an ‘A’ item 
in the relevant part27 of the Council’s agenda. However, it is still possible for any 
member of Coreper or the Council, or the Commission, to express an opinion 
when ‘I/A’ items are being approved and to have statements entered in the 
Council minutes (Article 3(6) CRP), or indeed to change their opinion and request 
a debate or a postponement of the item in question.
D – Presidency of Council’s preparatory bodies
On 1 December 2009 the European Council adopted a Decision on the exercise 
of the Presidency of the Council28, which has been implemented by Council 
Decision 2009/908/EU29. In accordance with the European Council Decision, the 
Presidency of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration, 
is held by pre-established groups of three Member States for a period of eighteen 
months (the so-called ‘Trio Presidency’). These groups are made up on the basis 
of equal rotation among Member States, taking into account their diversity and 
geographical balance within the Union. Each member of the group in turn, for 
a period of six months, chairs all configurations of the Council, with the exception 
of the Foreign Affairs configuration. The members of the group may, however, 
agree to alternative arrangements among themselves. 
The composition of the Trio Presidency and the order in which the Member 
States hold the Presidency are set out in Council Decision 2009/908/EU30. In 
effect, the six-monthly Presidency system has been kept after the Treaty of 
Lisbon. The concrete expression of the Trio Presidency is the existence of the 
18-month programme and the mutual help they can bring to each other, such as 
replacement of a President where necessary (Article 20(2) CRP).
All the Council’s preparatory bodies are chaired by a delegate of the Member 
State which holds the Presidency, unless otherwise provided for or the Council 
decides otherwise by a qualified majority (Article 19(4) CRP). It follows that 
although committees and working parties are, as a general rule, chaired by 
a delegate of the Member State holding the six-monthly rotating Presidency of 
the Council, the Council may decide otherwise in individual cases. For example, 
it may confer the chairmanship of a committee or a working party, for a certain 
period, on a delegate from a given delegation (chosen by his or her peers in the 
committee or working party) or on a person other than a delegate of a Member 
State, such as a member of staff of the General Secretariat of the Council.
In this respect, pursuant to Council Decision 2009/908 and subject to transitional 
measures, the preparatory bodies of the Foreign Affairs Council are chaired in 
27  The Council’s provisional agenda is divided into a first part entitled ‘Legislative 
deliberations’ and a second part entitled ‘Non-legislative activities’. Both parts are 
further sub-divided into two parts containing respectively A items and B items.
28 
OJ L 315, 2.12.2009, p.50.
29  Council Decision No 2009/908/EU of 1 December 2009 laying down measures 
for the implementation of the European Council Decision on the exercise of the 
Presidency of the Council, and on the chairmanship of preparatory bodies of the 
Council (OJ L 322, 9.12.2009, p.28).
30  See Annex I to Council Decision 2009/908/EU which lays down the order of 
Presidencies into groups of three Member States.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   23

accordance with Annex II to that Decision. Thus, geographic preparatory bodies, 
most of the CFSP-related horizontal preparatory bodies and the ESDP-related 
preparatory bodies (ex EUMC, CIVCOM) are to be chaired by a representative of 
the High Representative. 
Annex I I to the Decision referred to in the previous paragraph lists the preparatory 
bodies with a fixed chair; some of these bodies have elected chairpersons (e.g. 
Economic and Financial Committee, Economic Policy Committee, Military 
Committee, etc.) while others are chaired by a member of the Council’s General 
Secretariat (e.g. Security Committee, Working Party on Codification, etc).
In addition, when preparing for a meeting of a Council configuration which 
convenes only once every six months, where that meeting is held during the first 
half of the six-month period, meetings of these committees during the preceding 
six months may be chaired by a delegate of the Member State whose turn it is to 
chair the said Council meeting (Article 19(5) CRP).
Similarly, when a file is essential y dealt with during a given six-month period, 
a delegate of the Member State holding the Presidency during that six-month 
period may, during the preceding six month period, chair meetings of the 
committees when they discuss that file, in accordance with arrangements agreed 
between the two Presidencies concerned (first subparagraph of Article 19(6) 
CRP). This applies except where Council has made other chairing arrangements.
Furthermore, when the Union budget is being examined, meetings of the 
Council’s preparatory bodies, other than Coreper, dealing with budget items 
must be chaired by a delegate of the Member State which is to hold the Council 
Presidency during the second six-month period of the year prior to the financial 
year of the budget in question (Article 19(6) second subparagraph CRP).
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 19(4) to (6) CRP and to its powers and 
its overall political responsibility, the six-monthly Presidency is to be assisted by 
the other members of the pre-established group of three Member States referred 
to in Article 1(4) CRP or, where appropriate, by the representative of the Member 
State next holding the Presidency. At the Presidency’s request and acting on its 
instructions, the latter representative or a member of the group of three replaces 
it as and when required, relieves it, where necessary, of certain administrative 
tasks and ensures the continuity of the Council’s proceedings (Article 20(2) CRP).
Hence, when a chairman of a working party or a committee is prevented from 
chairing a meeting and the Presidency cannot find a replacement, or when the 
six-monthly Presidency is unable to provide a chairman for a particular working 
party, a delegate of one of the group of three or of the following Presidency wil , 
in principle, act as chairman. The aim is to ensure continuity as far as possible. If 
a chairman is replaced by one of the above for a six-month period, the Presidency 
will have the list of working parties concerned endorsed by Council at the 
beginning of the six-month period pursuant to Article 19(4) CRP.
24  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

4. THE PRESIDENCY AND THE SMOOTH CONDUCT OF 
 
     DISCUSSIONS (ARTICLE 20 AND ANNEX V CRP)
The Presidency is responsible for ensuring that discussions are conducted properly. 
To that end, it makes sure that the CRP are applied and that the provisions of 
Annex V ‘Council’s working methods’ are complied with; these provisions apply 
both to the Council and to its preparatory bodies:
(a)  Concerning the preparation for meetings (points 1 to 5)
–  the Presidency ensures that no file is submitted to Coreper unless there is 
reasonable prospect of progress or clarification of positions being achieved 
at that level and that files are referred back to a working party or a committee 
only when necessary, with precise and wel -defined remit;
–  the Presidency takes the steps necessary to advance work between meetings, 
for example by drafting compromise texts, holding consultations on specific 
problems or by requesting delegations to give their reactions to a proposal in 
writing before the next meeting of the working party or committee;
–  whenever appropriate, delegations should set out the positions they are 
likely to take at a forthcoming meeting in written form before that meeting. 
When that includes proposals for amending texts, delegations should suggest 
specific wording. Wherever possible, written input should be submitted jointly 
by delegations taking the same positions;
– when preparing Coreper proceedings, the Presidency conveys all the 
information necessary for thorough preparation to delegations as soon as 
possible, including what the Presidency expects to achieve from the discussion 
on each agenda item. Conversely, the Presidency wil , as appropriate, 
encourage delegations to inform other delegations of the positions they will 
be taking in Coreper when Coreper’s proceedings are being prepared. Against 
this background, the Presidency finalises Coreper’s agenda. If necessary, it 
may convene the working parties preparing Coreper’s proceedings more 
frequently;
–  Coreper should avoid going over ground already covered in the Antici and 
Mertens meetings respectively and wherever possible, delegations should 
raise ‘Any other business’ items during such meetings rather than in Coreper 
itself.
(b)  Concerning the conduct of meetings (points 6 to 16)
–  no item should be placed on the Council agenda simply for presentation 
purposes, except where a debate on major new initiatives is planned; the 
Presidency should refrain from placing items which are purely for information 
purposes on Coreper’s agenda. Such information should preferably be 
forwarded in writing when Coreper’s proceedings are being prepared;
–  the Presidency may restrict the numbers per delegation present in the 
meeting room for discussion of a specific item, and decide whether to open 
an overflow room; it can also set the order in which items are to be taken and 
determine the duration of discussions on them; likewise, it can organise the 
time allotted for discussion of a specific item, in particular through limiting 
the time during which participants may speak and determining the order in 
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   25

which they may take the floor. In this connection, the Presidency indicates at 
the start of the meeting the length of time it intends to devote to each item; 
it refrains from making lengthy introductions or repeating information which 
has already been brought to delegations’ attention; at the start of discussion 
on a point it also tel s delegations for how long they may speak;
–  full table rounds should not be allowed; the Presidency gives as much focus 
as possible to discussions, in particular by requesting delegations to respond 
to compromise texts or specific proposals; it refrains from making lengthy 
summaries of discussions at the end of meetings; for their part, delegations 
should avoid repeating points made by previous speakers and refrain from 
taking the floor when in agreement with a proposal; in this case silence is 
taken as agreement in principle;
–  the Presidency may ask delegations to present, in writing, their proposals for 
amendment of a text under discussion before a given date, together with 
a brief explanation if appropriate (point (d) of the second subparagraph of 
Article 20(1) CRP), rather than merely express their disagreement with a 
particular proposal;
–  the Presidency may also ask delegations which have identical or similar 
positions on a particular item, text or part thereof to choose one of them to 
express their shared position at the meeting or in writing before the meeting.
5. THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE COUNCIL GENERAL   
     SECRETARIAT (ARTICLE 23 CRP)
At its first meeting in September 1952, the Coal and Steel Council set up a secretariat 
under the direction of a Secretary-General. When the two Treaties of Rome 
entered into force (EEC and Euratom), the General Secretariat extended its 
activities accordingly. The Secretariat and the Secretary-General were thus 
mentioned in successive versions of the CRP until the Maastricht Treaty introduced 
a direct reference to them in the TEC and, a few years later, the Amsterdam 
Treaty introduced a reference to them in the Treaty on the European Union. The 
Secretary-General is responsible for the running of the General Secretariat and 
is appointed by the Council by qualified majority (Article 240(2) TFEU). This is 
repeated in Article 23(1) CRP. The principle of the single Council therefore also 
applies to its General Secretariat, which assists the Council and its preparatory 
bodies in all their activities.
A – The Secretary-General
The Secretary General, as head of the General Secretariat, assists the Council 
(Article 240(2) TFEU). He or she is in charge of the General Secretariat and, under 
the Council’s authority, takes any measures needed to ensure its smooth running. 
The Secretary-General normally attends the meetings of the General Affairs 
Council. His or her role is essential y to ensure the continuity and progress of 
the Council’s work and to advise the Council. He or she is also responsible for 
management of the General Secretariat.
Under the responsibility and guidance of the Presidency, the General Secretariat 
is closely and continual y involved in organising, coordinating and ensuring the 
coherence of the Council’s work and implementation of its 18-month programme. 
It assists the Presidency in finding solutions. 
26  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

The CRP mention several other tasks incumbent on the Secretary General, 
namely:
(a) the Secretary General is depositary of a number of agreements (Article 25 CRP; 
see Chapter V, point 2);
(b) the Secretary General signs the minutes of Council meetings (Article 13(1), 
CRP);
(c) the Secretary General official y forwards acts for publication in the Official 
Journal (Article 17 CRP);
(d) 
the Secretary General notifies certain directives, decisions and 
recommendations to their addressees and sends the Governments of the 
Member States and the Commission certified copies of the Council directives 
and decisions referred to in the third subparagraph of Article 297(2) TFEU and 
of Council recommendations (Article 18 CRP);
(e) the Secretary-General is responsible for submitting to the Council, every year, 
in good time, the draft estimate of the expenditure of the Council (Article 23(4) 
CRP);
(f)  the Secretary General has full responsibility for administering the appropriations 
entered in Section II – European Council and Council – of the budget and takes 
all measures necessary to ensure that they are properly managed. He or she 
implements the appropriations in accordance with the Financial Regulation 
(Article 23(5), CRP). The Secretary-General has thereby defined the criteria, 
limits and procedures for reimbursement of the expenses of Member States’ 
delegates31.
The Secretary-General of the Council is also the Secretary-General of the 
European Council. He or she attends the meetings of the European Council and 
takes all measures necessary for the organisation of its proceedings (Article 13 of 
the European Council’s Rules of Procedure).
B – The General Secretariat
It follows from Article 240(2) TFEU and Article 23(1) CRP that the General 
Secretariat’s main task is to assist the Council and its preparatory bodies in all their 
activities (indivisibility of the General Secretariat). The General Secretariat is at the 
service of the Council, which decides on its organisation. It is independent and 
impartial with regard to both the members of the Council and its Presidency32. 
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, it also assists the European 
Council, which became a separate institution.
31  Decision No 30/2013 of the Secretary-General of the Council concerning the 
reimbursement of travel expenses of delegates of Member States.
32  In this connection, see the GSC‘s ‘Mission Statement’, which reads: ‘As an open, 
efficient, independent and permanent European public service, the General 
Secretariat of the Council ensures that the European Council and the Council 
operate smoothly, and lends them every assistance necessary so that they can 
perform the missions conferred on them by the Treaties to further the development 
of the Union. The General Secretariat provides advice and support to members of 
the European Council and the Council and to their Presidents in all areas of activity, 
as well as in the context of ministerial meetings and intergovernmental conferences.’
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   27

The General Secretariat is both the Council’s ‘registrar’ (drafting of records, material 
organisation and planning of meetings, production, translation and circulation 
of documents and their archiving) and its adviser. It is closely and continual y 
involved in organising, coordinating and ensuring the coherence of the Council’s 
work and implementation of its 18-month programme. It assists the Presidency 
of the Council in its work (Article 23(3) CRP). It also receives notification of the 
names and functions of officials accompanying members of the Council and the 
Commission (Article 5(3) CRP).
The General Secretariat, which employs some 3 100 officials and other staff who 
are nationals of EU Member States, is divided into seven Directorates-General, in 
addition to the Secretary-General’s private office and the Council Legal Service.
The Legal Service assists the Council and its preparatory bodies, the Presidency 
and the General Secretariat in order to ensure that Council acts are lawful and well 
drafted. It has the right and the duty to intervene when it considers it necessary, 
oral y or in writing, both at the level of working parties and committees and at the 
level of Coreper or the Council by giving ful y independent opinions on any legal 
question, whether at the request of the Council or on its own initiative. It also 
represents the European Council and the Council before the Court of Justice, the 
General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal33. It is also responsible for checking 
the drafting quality of proposals and draft acts and for formulating drafting 
suggestions for the Council and its bodies, pursuant to Article 22 CRP and the 
Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for 
the quality of drafting of Community legislation34.
The Legal Service has the same responsibilities as regards the European Council. 
When requested, it also advises the Intergovernmental Conferences of Member 
States.
33  European Council Decision of 19 March 2015 delegating the power to appoint 
agents to represent the European Council before the Court of Justice and Council 
Decision of 12 June 1989 delegating the power to appoint agents to represent the 
Council before the Court of Justice.
34 
OJ C 73, 17.3.1999, p. 1.
28  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

CHAPTER II – THE COUNCIL’S PROCEEDINGS
1. PROGRAMMING OF COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS 
     (ARTICLE 2(6) AND (7) CRP)
An 18-month programme of Council activities is prepared by the pre-established 
group of three Presidencies due to hold office over that period. These Presidencies 
draw up a draft programme with the President of the Foreign Affairs Council, in 
order to take into account matters of the latter’s activities during that period, and 
in close cooperation with the Commission and the President of the European 
Council, after appropriate consultations.
The programme includes a general introductory section setting the programme 
in the context of the European Union’s long-term strategic guidelines. In this 
connection, the group of three Presidencies in charge of preparing the draft 
programme consults the next group of three Presidencies. The draft programme 
covers, inter alia, points arising from the dialogue on political priorities for the 
year, conducted on the Commission’s initiative.
The draft 18-month programme is presented in a single document for 
endorsement by the General Affairs Council, no later than one month before the 
relevant period. The General Affairs Council holds a public policy debate on the 
programme (Article 8(3) CRP).
On the basis of the 18-month programme, after consulting the Commission, the 
Presidency which is to hold office in the relevant period draws up draft agendas 
for the Council meetings scheduled for the next six-month period, at the latest 
one week before the beginning of the relevant six-month period. They are set 
out in a single document applying to all Council configurations. In other words, 
it is an obligation which applies to the President of the Foreign Affairs Council 
(the High Representative) and to any other President of the Council (Article 1(5) 
CRP). For guidance, this document indicates the legislative work and operational 
decisions envisaged. In the course of the six months, the Presidency may, as the 
need arises, schedule additional Council meetings, or decide not to convene 
a meeting if one of the meetings scheduled proves to be no longer warranted.
2. NOTICE AND VENUE OF MEETINGS (ARTICLE 1 CRP)
A – Notice 
As in Article 237 TFEU, Article 1(1) CRP provides that the Council meets when 
convened by its President on his or her own initiative or at the request of one of 
its members or of the Commission. If a delegation or the Commission requests 
that the Council be convened, the President is obliged to convene it. The 
President may, however, exercise some discretion in selecting the date of the 
meeting. In making this choice, he or she must take account, in addition to his or 
her colleagues’ opinions, of:
–  the deadlines imposed by the CRP (Article 3(1) to (3) CRP);
–  the fact that the Council may be legal y obliged to meet or to act before a 
set date (e.g. in the case provided for in Article 30(2) TEU);
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   29

–  rules governing the quorum so that the Council can take a vote 
  (Article 11(4) CRP);
–  preparation for Council discussions in Coreper (Article 19 CRP).
The Presidency makes known the proposed dates for Council meetings for each 
Council configuration at least seven months before the start of the six-month 
period concerned and after appropriate consultations. Those dates are set out in 
a single document applying to all Council configurations, again underlying the 
fact that this obligation applies to the President of the Foreign Affairs Council (the 
High Representative) as it does to any other Council President.
Natural y, this programming is flexible and the scheduled dates may be changed 
during the Presidency. Specific dates are given when, at the latest one week 
before it takes up office, the Presidency which is to hold office in the relevant 
period draws up draft agendas for the Council meetings scheduled for the 
following six months. The Presidency may schedule extra meetings or, possibly, 
cancel those already planned, as needed.
In cases related to foreign affairs requiring a rapid decision, the Presidency 
may convene an extraordinary Council meeting. For example, Article 30(2) TEU 
provides that the High Representative is to convene an extraordinary Foreign 
Affairs Council meeting, of his or her own motion, or at the request of a Member 
State, within 48 hours or, in an emergency, within a shorter period.
Lastly, in accordance with wel -established practice and as mentioned above, 
each Council Presidency organises a maximum of five informal ministerial 
meetings during its term (Chapter I, point 2.A).
B – Venue of meetings
Protocol (No 6) on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies, 
offices, agencies and departments of the European Union provides that the seat 
of the Council is in Brussels and that Council meetings are held in Luxembourg 
in April, June and October. It may exceptional y be necessary for the Council to 
meet in other places. This is the case in particular with international negotiations 
in which the Union takes part. In that case, the second subparagraph of 
Article 1(3) CRP provides that the decision to hold a meeting elsewhere must 
be taken unanimously, by the Council or Coreper.
3. AGENDA (ARTICLE 3 CRP)
A – Drawing up of the provisional agenda
(a)  Entry of items on the agenda

The provisional agenda for each meeting is drawn up under the responsibility 
of the President, taking into account the Council’s 18-month programme and 
requests for inclusion from a member of the Council or from the Commission. 
Thus drawn up, the provisional agenda is then sent by the President to the 
members of the Council and to the Commission at least fourteen days before the 
beginning of the meeting. It must also be forwarded to Member States’ national 
parliaments at the same time.
When drawing up the provisional agenda, the President is required to observe 
various deadlines (on the understanding that, if the sixteen and fourteen-day 
30  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

deadlines for inclusion of items on the provisional Council agenda are met, these 
items can be entered on the final agenda by a simple majority). These are, more 
specifical y:
–  a deadline of sixteen days before the beginning of the Council meeting for 
the receipt of requests for inclusion of items on the provisional agenda by 
Council members or the Commission, together with any documents relating 
thereto. The President is obliged to accede to any request from a member 
of the Council or from the Commission if the request, and any documents 
relating to it, reach the General Secretariat within the time-limit (Article 3(2) 
CRP);
–  a deadline of fourteen days before the beginning of the Council meeting 
for the Presidency to draw up the provisional agenda and send it, together 
with any documents relating to it, to members of the Council and to the 
Commission;
–  a deadline of eight weeks for entry on the provisional agenda, with a view 
to a decision, of a legislative act or a position at first reading in the ordinary 
legislative procedure (see Article 4 of Protocol (No 1) on the role of national 
parliaments in the European Union and Article 6 of Protocol (No 2) on the 
application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality): this is to 
allow national parliaments to express their views on questions that might 
have particular interest for them or, where Protocol (No 2) applies, to send 
a reasoned opinion on whether the draft legislative act complies with the 
principle of subsidiarity. This prevents the Council from adopting a legislative 
act or a position at first reading under the ordinary legislative procedure before 
national parliaments have had time to examine the text. However, the Council 
may, acting in accordance with the voting rule applicable for the adoption of 
the act or position concerned, derogate from the eight-week period for reasons 
of urgency, which must be set out in the act or position concerned; this eight-
week period starts to run on the date the legislative proposal is received by 
the Council in all languages (Article 3(3) second and third subparagraphs) 
CRP). A ten-day period must elapse between placing of a draft legislative act 
on the provisional agenda and the adoption of a position. This period may 
be derogated from in urgent cases for which due reasons have been given 
(Article 3(3) third subparagraph CRP);
–  a non-compulsory deadline of twenty-one days for the provisional agenda 
and any documents relating thereto to be sent to the members of the Council, 
in respect of proceedings under Title V of the TFEU (‘Area of freedom, security 
and justice’). This deadline is provided for in a Council statement which 
indicates that the President will endeavour to ensure that this deadline is, in 
principle, met35.
Where a request for the inclusion of an item on the agenda has not respected the 
time-limits specified above, or where the documents relating to an item have not 
been sent in time, that item may only be entered on the provisional agenda if the 
Council approves such entry unanimously when adopting its definitive agenda 
at the beginning of its meeting (see point 3.B).
35 
See statement (c) regarding Article 3 CRP inserted in footnote 111 (of this publication) 
to Article 3 CRP.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   31

(b)  Calculation of deadlines
For the calculation of the deadlines, the provisions of Council Regulation No 1182/71 
of 3 June 1971 determining the rules applicable to periods, dates and time-limits36 
apply mutatis mutandis.
For the purposes of determining the deadline, pursuant to the second 
subparagraph of Article 3(1) of Regulation No 1182/71, the day on which the 
Council meeting is held is not included in the calculation of the periods in 
question, since pursuant to this provision, ‘where a period expressed in days […] 
is to be calculated from the moment at which an event occurs or an action takes 
place, the day during which that event occurs […] shall not be considered as 
fal ing within the period in question’.
In short, the day on which an item is entered and the day on which the Council 
meeting takes place, are not counted for the purposes of calculating the time-
limits. A fourteen-day period, for example, must therefore run in between these 
two events.
Example: how to calculate the fourteen-day period:
Council meeting: Monday 30 November 2015
End of fourteen-day period: midnight on Sunday 29 November 2015
Start of fourteen-day period: on 00.00 Monday 16 November 2015
Provisional agenda to be sent at the latest: by midnight on Sunday 15 November 2015.
(c)  Withdrawal of items from the agenda
Once an item has been entered on the provisional agenda within the (fourteen- 
of sixteen -day) deadline, it cannot be withdrawn unless all the members of the 
Council agree. Otherwise, a member of the Council could, for example, request 
entry of an item within the deadline and then unilateral y withdraw its request. In 
this case, the other members of the Council who had not requested that the item 
be included since it was already on the agenda would thus be deprived of their 
right to request its inclusion as they would be out of time.
In practice, the last Coreper meeting before the relevant Council meeting is 
the last opportunity for removing an item from the provisional agenda. At this 
meeting, the President of Coreper will check if anybody opposes the removal of 
a given item from the provisional agenda of the Council, that item having initial y 
been entered within the fourteen or sixteen days deadline. If all agree, the item 
may be withdrawn from the provisional agenda during the Coreper meeting 
preceding the relevant Council meeting. 
Alternatively, the Council may decide by simple majority not to enter this item in 
the definitive agenda of the relevant Council meeting at the time its definitive 
agenda is adopted. In the latter case, the Presidency may oral y suggest at the 
time of adoption that the relevant item will be deferred to a future Council 
meeting. If the item concerns an act which needs to be adopted urgently and 
which may be adopted by a qualified majority or a simple majority, the item may 
36 
OJ L 124, 8.6.1971, p. 1.
32  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

be retained on the provisional agenda or entered in the definitive one despite 
the reservation by a delegation. In such case, the delegation concerned will have 
to indicate if its reservation is to be converted into an abstention or a vote against.
Except in cases of urgency, the Presidency is required to remove from the 
provisional agenda any items relating to draft legislative acts which Coreper has 
not finished examining by the end of the week preceding the week prior to 
a Council meeting (second subparagraph of Article 3(5) CRP).
B – Adoption of the definitive agenda
The definitive agenda is adopted by the Council at the beginning of each 
meeting. The Council adopts its agenda by a simple majority for all those items 
which have been entered within the deadlines. However, the inclusion in the 
agenda of an item other than those which have been put on the provisional 
agenda within the fourteen- or sixteen -day deadline, requires unanimity in the 
Council (see above)37. Items entered in this way may be put to the vote if all the 
procedural requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with.
‘Any Other Business’ items may be requested after the 16- and 14- day deadlines 
and included in the agenda when adopted by simple majority, since these items 
should concern information points only, and thus cannot give rise to any decision 
or even to any statement in the minutes. Any discussion on such an item should 
be avoided. Any request for the inclusion of an ‘Any Other Business’ item must be 
accompanied by an explanatory document (Article 3(9) CRP). 
If, when the definitive agenda is adopted, a delegation or the Commission 
opposes the retention of an item which was entered in the provisional agenda 
within the time-limit laid down in Article 3, the item remains on the definitive 
agenda if a simple majority is in favour. However, if the time limit was not 
complied with, unanimity is required for the item to be put on the definitive 
agenda. If the objection concerns the retention of an ‘A’ item, the item may be 
dealt with as a ‘B’ item if the Council decides to keep it on the definitive agenda 
(see point 3.C(b) . 
An ‘A’ item is removed from the definitive agenda if a position on that ‘A’ item 
might lead to further discussion or if a member of the Council or the Commission 
so requests (Article 3(8) CRP). However, the Council may decide, by a simple 
majority, to keep the item on its agenda as an ‘A’ item or to deal with it as a 
‘B’ item.
37 
Note that if the item to be added concerns a decision in respect of which, under 
the Treaties, members of the Council or of Coreper may not participate in the vote, 
account is not to be taken of votes by such members when the addition of the item 
is approved unanimously (Annex IV, 1(b) CRP). See Chapter III, point 1.C.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   33

C – Structure and contents of the agenda 
(a)  Legislative and non-legislative
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, Council meetings, and therefore 
also the agenda, are to be divided into two parts dealing respectively with 
deliberations on Union legislative acts and non-legislative activities (Article 16(8) 
TEU). The provisional agenda is therefore divided into two parts: a part entitled 
‘Legislative deliberations’ which deals with deliberations on legislative acts 
and a part entitled ‘Non-legislative activities’ which deals with non-legislative 
activities. The items appearing in each of the above parts are further divided into 
‘A’ items and ‘B’ items (Article 3(6) CRP). ‘Any Other Business’ items may also be 
inserted in each of the above parts depending on whether they relate to Union 
legislative acts or to non-legislative activities.
Legislative and non-legislative acts are identified formal y according to the 
procedure used to adopt them. Thus acts adopted through a legislative procedure 
(ordinary or special) as indicated by the legal basis in the Treaty on which those 
acts are based, constitute ‘legislative acts’. However, acts supported by a legal basis 
which does not mention that it is subject to a legislative procedure are not ‘legislative 
acts’38. This does not mean that the latter do not produce legal effects, but for the 
purposes of classification of acts in the agenda of the Council this is irrelevant. Thus 
an act which is legal y binding but which is not adopted according to an ordinary 
or special legislative procedure provided for in the Treaty, is not a ‘legislative act’ 
and is not inserted in the part of the agenda entitled ‘Legislative deliberations’. Such 
an act should be inserted in the part entitled ‘Non- legislative activities’. In addition, 
acts whose legal basis is not explicitly mentioned (e.g. conclusions of the Council) 
must be inserted in the part entitled ‘Non-legislative activities’.
(b)  Parts A and B of the agenda
The two parts of the agenda, legislative and non-legislative, are further divided 
into a sub-part with ‘A items’ and a sub-part with ‘B items’ (Article 3(6) second 
subparagraph CRP). ‘A’ items on the agenda are items for which, given their state 
of preparation by Coreper, approval by the Council seems possible without 
discussion; this does not exclude the possibility, afforded to any member of 
the Council and to the Commission, of expressing an opinion at the time of the 
approval of those items and having statements included in the minutes. On the 
other hand, matters which must be discussed are included under the Part of 
‘B’ items.
The practice of ‘A’ items avoids a situation in which Council meetings are 
burdened with a large number of items on which agreement has already been 
reached and which therefore do not need to be examined individual y.
‘A’ items are included on a list which in principle is approved as a whole by the 
Council, normal y at the beginning of the meeting. The ‘A items’ of the legislative 
part of the agenda are adopted in public. Legal y speaking, there is a set of votes 
covering each ‘A’ item individual y. Any item included on the list of ‘A’ items is the 
38 
See Article 289(3) TFEU which states: Legal acts adopted by legislative procedure 
shall constitute legislative acts.
34  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

subject of a note, known as an ‘A’ item note (or ‘I/A’ item note, when the item 
was approved by Coreper without discussion, i.e. when an item is in Part I of its 
agenda), forecasting the outcome of the vote and indicating the existence of 
the majority required, as ascertained during Coreper’s proceedings. By adopting 
the list of ‘A’ items, each item on the list is formal y adopted, by confirming the 
forecasts of votes mentioned in each ‘A’ item note. Those vote forecasts may of 
course be altered when the members of the Council adopt the ‘A’ items.
It must, however, be pointed out that an ‘A’ item is withdrawn from the agenda 
and is therefore not adopted if a position on an ‘A’ item might lead to its further 
discussion or if a member of the Council or of the Commission so requests. In 
that case, the item is deferred to a subsequent Council meeting. The Council may, 
however, decide otherwise by a simple majority39. The item concerned may then 
be included in Part ‘B’ of the same meeting by a decision taken by simple majority. 
This option only exists, of course, if the item was included on the provisional 
agenda at least fourteen days before the meeting. Otherwise, i.e. if the ‘A’ item in 
question does not appear on the provisional agenda at least 14 days before the 
meeting, the Council may keep it as a ‘B’ item during the same meeting only by 
unanimity40, failing which the item is carried over to another meeting.
An item concerning which a delegation has entered a reservation can be 
included as an ‘A’ item on the Council’s agenda. If the reservation is not lifted 
during the Council meeting, the delegation which entered it is deemed to have 
voted against. If the act concerned may be adopted by a qualified majority 
or a simple majority, the item will then be adopted if the necessary number of 
votes in favour is obtained without that delegation’s approval but the delegation 
must indicate if its vote is to be understood as an abstention or a vote against. In 
the event of a unanimous vote, the act cannot be adopted unless the delegation 
concerned abstains. 
(c)  Wording of items 
Where an item is placed before the Council for deliberation on a proposal from 
the Commission or on the initiative of the Commission or of a Member State or 
other author41, its wording should reproduce the full title of the proposal or the 
initiative without any modification thereto.
39 
Note that with regard to the possibility of requesting that an ‘A’ item be withdrawn 
from the agenda (Article 3(8)), a member of the Council or of Coreper may not make 
use of this provision in connection with decisions on which, under the Treaties, that 
member may not participate in the vote (Annex IV, 2(a)). See Chapter III, point 1.C.
40 
Note that if the ‘A’ item to be maintained on the agenda under the procedure laid 
down in Article 3(8) CRP concerns a decision in respect of which, under the Treaties, 
members of the Council or of Coreper may not participate in the vote, account is 
not to be taken of votes by such members in the unanimous approval required to 
keep the item on the agenda (Annex IV, 1(c)). See Chapter III, point 1.C.
41  This includes Commission proposals for legally binding acts, viz. regulations, the 
directives referred to in Article 297 TFEU and decisions, as well as Commission 
proposals for non-binding acts, viz. recommendations within the meaning 
of Article 288 TFEU. It also includes initiatives of the Commission, the High 
Representative or Member States for legally binding acts under, for example, 
Article 76, Article 215, Article 218 TFEU and Article 30 TEU.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   35

The wording of items relating to the adoption, by the Council, of a legislative 
act or a position at first reading in the ordinary legislative procedure should – 
provided that the texts in question have been finalised by the Legal/Linguistic 
Experts – reproduce the full title of the text thus finalised, preceded by ‘draft’.
The wording of items relating to atypical acts42 should reproduce the full title of 
the text placed before the Council by Coreper, preceded by ‘draft’.
(d) Asterisks 
In the provisional agenda, an asterisk placed after an item indicates that the 
Presidency, a member of the Council or the Commission may request a vote on 
the item43. These items comprise atypical acts, such as statements of the Council, 
which are indissolubly linked to a binding act or draft thereof and therefore 
must be adopted in accordance with the same voting rule as that prescribed for 
adopting the relevant binding act. 
Items on which a vote may be requested must be indicated in the agenda within 
the specified time-limit (see point 3.A). This means that, unless the Council 
unanimously decides otherwise, items entered on the agenda within the above 
time-limit, but without an asterisk, cannot be put to a vote. 
The items concerned must be marked with an asterisk if all the procedural 
requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with44. This is 
a legal obligation provided for in Article 3(2) CRP. An asterisk does not mean that 
a vote will necessarily take place, but that it may. It is intended not only to enable 
members of the Council to complete all necessary preparatory procedures and 
to ensure that the vote does not take them by surprise, but also to permit the 
Presidency, members of the Council or the Commission to identify the items 
on which they are entitled to request the opening of a voting procedure in 
accordance with the second subparagraph of Article 11(1) CRP.
If, by mistake, an item has been entered on the agenda without an asterisk, a member 
of the Council or the Commission may ask for that error to be corrected. 
(e)  Legislative items (automatic publicity)
Any item on the Council’s provisional agenda relating to a legislative act should 
be placed in the part of the agenda entitled ‘Legislative deliberations’ (Article 3(6) 
and 7 CRP). The placing of items in this part has a bearing on transparency (see 
point 6 below).
42 
Council resolutions, resolutions of the Council and of the Representatives of the 
Governments of the Member States, Council conclusions, recommendations other 
than those referred to in Article 288 TFEU, as well as statements/declarations.
43 
Re voting, see Chapter III, points 1 and 2.
44  For instance, under a number a of legal bases in the Treaties, the mandatory 
opinions of the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the 
Committee of the Regions, the European Central Bank and/or the Court of Auditors 
are preconditions for the adoption of the act. It is therefore necessary to check 
whether the mandatory opinions required have been delivered by the date of the 
Council meeting.
36  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

Note that, unless otherwise required because of urgency and without prejudice 
to Article 3(3) CRP, the Presidency must remove from the provisional agenda 
those legislative items which Coreper has not completed its examination by 
the end of the week preceding the week prior to the Council meeting (second 
subparagraph of Article 3(5) CRP).
(f)   Indications relating to the transparency rules (for certain non-
legislative acts)
In all cases where the Council deliberates for the first time on new non-legislative 
proposals which are important and which relate to the adoption of rules which 
are legal y binding in or for Member States, with the exception of internal 
measures, administrative or budgetary acts, acts concerning interinstitutional or 
international relations or non-binding acts (Article 8(1) CRP), the wording to be 
inserted in the Council’s agenda under the item concerned is ‘public deliberation’. 
It is for the Presidency to identify which new proposals are important (the Council 
or Coreper may decide otherwise by simple majority). Likewise, the Presidency 
may decide, on a case-by-case basis, that subsequent Council deliberations on 
one of these proposals should be open to the public (Council or Coreper may 
decide otherwise by simple majority) (Article 8(1), second subparagraph). The 
provisional agenda must specify which CRP Article and paragraph apply in the 
case in question (for the cases covered by each paragraph, see Chapter I , 
point 6.A) and state, if applicable, that the public deliberation was proposed 
by the Presidency. Accordingly, where public deliberations are concerned, the 
wordings to be included in the agenda are, respectively, as follows: 
–  ‘Public deliberation pursuant to Article 8(1) first subparagraph’;
–  ‘Public deliberation pursuant to Article 8(1) second subparagraph (proposed 
by the Presidency)’. 
In cases where the Council deliberates in public on specific subjects (Article 8(2) CRP) 
or on programmes and priorities (Article 8(3) CRP), the wording to be inserted in 
the Council’s agenda under the item concerned is ‘public debate’. Debates on 
items under Article 8(3) CRP must be held in public. The agenda must specify the 
article, including the paragraph (see Chapter II, point 6.A), which applies in the 
case in question and, if applicable, mention the proposal on which the public 
debate is to be held. The wordings to be included in the agenda are, respectively, 
as follows: 
–  ‘Public debate pursuant to Article 8(2) (proposed by the Presidency)’; 
–  ‘Public debate pursuant to Article 8(2) (proposed by the Commission)’; 
–  ‘Public debate pursuant to Article 8(2) (proposed by the XX delegation)’; 
–  ‘Public debate pursuant to Article 8(3)’. 
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   37

4. PROFESSIONAL SECRECY (ARTICLES 5 AND 6 CRP)
A – Participation in Council meetings
‘Participation’, in the sense of taking, shaping or influencing decisions, results 
from membership of the Council, as defined in Article 16(2) TEU: ‘The Council 
shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level’. Only 
representatives of the Member States – who are, in principle, nationals of Member 
States of the European Union – may participate in Council meetings (see Chapter I, 
point 2.D). This preserves the Council’s decision-making autonomy.
Similarly, Article 5 provides that, unless deliberating or voting on legislative acts, 
Council meetings must not be public, and Article 6(1) stipulates that ‘Without 
prejudice to Articles 7, 8 and 9 and to provisions on public access to documents, 
the deliberations of the Council shall be covered by the obligation of professional 
secrecy […]’. 
The exceptions to the rule that only representatives of the governments of the 
Member States may participate in Council meetings are expressly provided for in 
the Treaties themselves45 or result implicitly but necessarily from the role assigned 
by the Treaties to a Union institution46 or from a State’s having signed a treaty of 
accession to the EU47.
This rule also applies to the preparatory work for Council meetings, i.e. all the 
Council’s preparatory bodies (Coreper, committees and working parties). 
However, legislative work in preparatory bodies is not public.
In practice, the Commission is virtual y always present at, and takes part in, Council 
meetings and meetings of Council preparatory bodies at all levels and in all fields 
of action (Article 5(2) CRP), even if the act to be adopted by the Council does 
not require a Commission proposal. Commission participation in the Council’s 
proceedings is facilitated by the fact that it routinely receives documentation 
issued by the General Secretariat of the Council, on an equal footing with the 
Permanent Representations. The European Central Bank is invited to take part 
in meetings of the Council in cases where it exercises its right of initiative. The 
Council rarely decides to deliberate without the presence of the Commission. 
However, such a decision may be prompted, for example, if the Council’s internal 
45  For instance the participation of the President of the European Central Bank 
provided for in Article 284(2) of the TFEU, which stipulates that ‘The President of the 
European Central Bank shall be invited to participate in Council meetings when the 
Council is discussing matters relating to the objectives and tasks of the ESCB’.
46 
The Commission, exercising the right of initiative assigned to it under the Treaty, 
submits to the Council proposals or other draft instruments, which it must be able 
to explain, defend or amend. It is therefore routinely ‘invited to take part in meetings 
of the Council’ (Article 5(2) CRP). The same applies to the European Central Bank, in 
cases where it exercises its right of initiative (Article 5(2) CRP).
47  Participation by representatives of States acceding to the European Union in 
meetings of Council preparatory bodies, as observers with a right to speak following 
the signature of the accession treaty and before its entry into force, is accounted for 
by the fact that acceding States, by signing the accession treaty, have accepted the 
Union acquis in its entirety, even after the end of the negotiations. The provisions 
of the acquis after the signature of the accession treaty are, however, binding on 
acceding States although the latter cannot legally participate in their adoption.
38  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

affairs are at issue (appointment of officials, cases before the Court of Justice, etc.). 
In these cases, the Council (or the relevant preparatory body) decides, by simple 
majority (Article 5(2) CRP).
Representatives of other European Union institutions or bodies are occasional y 
invited to attend the Council’s proceedings48, depending on the subject 
discussed and the appropriateness. A decision concerning any invitation is taken 
by the Council in advance, by a simple majority.
B – Presence at Council meetings
Participation in Council meetings must not be confused with the occasional 
presence of representatives of third States or of international organisations, 
who are sometimes invited as observers to attend certain Council meetings or 
meetings of Council preparatory bodies concerning a specific item.
Article 6(1) CRP provides that ‘[…] the deliberations of the Council shall be 
covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, except insofar as the Council 
decides otherwise’. Under this article, the Council may, whenever it considers 
it appropriate, decide by a simple majority49 to open its deliberations – or to 
disclose their content, inter alia by forwarding documents50 – to certain persons 
(or categories of persons).
The presence of observers must be authorised by the Council for a specific item 
on the agenda. In this case, the Presidency must warn the Council members of 
this fact in advance. In respect of this item, the Council (or the relevant preparatory 
body) implicitly decides, by simple majority, to set aside the professional 
secrecy provided for in Article 6(1). The observer must leave the room once 
the deliberations on this item have ended, or when requested to leave by the 
Presidency. The third-party observer may be invited by the Council Presidency 
to state his or her views or inform the Council concerning the subject at issue. 
From a legal point of view, the third party does not participate in the deliberations 
leading to the taking of a decision by the Council, but simply provides the Council 
with information which it can draw upon before taking its decision. 
The same rules apply to meetings of the Council’s preparatory bodies. The 
Presidency is responsible for organising the proceedings so as to preserve the 
Council’s decision-making autonomy. 
48 
For instance, representatives of the Court of Justice or the Court of Auditors are 
normally invited to attend Council meetings where issues relevant to these 
institutions are discussed; the same applies to the European Investment Bank (EIB).
49 
If the invitation to a third party constitutes a political decision with a bearing on the 
CFSP, it must be taken unanimously.
50  One example of the forwarding of documents is expressly provided for in 
Article 6(2) CRP: ‘The Council or Coreper may authorise the production for use in 
legal proceedings of a copy of or an extract from Council documents which have 
not already been released to the public in accordance with the provisions on public 
access to documents’.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   39

5. MINUTES (ARTICLE 13 CRP)
A – Structure and content of the minutes
Article 13 CRP provides for the drawing up of minutes of each Council meeting. 
The minutes are a document which summarises the decisions taken and 
occasional y the content of the discussions held during that meeting51. These 
minutes constitute documentary evidence of the proceedings which they 
describe and of compliance with the procedural rules relating to the adoption 
of an act.
The minutes general y contain three points concerning each item on the agenda:
–  a reference to the documents submitted to the Council;
–  the decisions taken or the conclusions reached by the Council;
–  the statements made by the Council alone, those made jointly by the Council 
and the Commission and those whose entry has been requested by a member 
of the Council, or the Commission.
With regard to the indication of documents, all documents submitted to the 
Council are numbered and bear a reference for their identification. 
With regard to decisions taken or conclusions adopted, the practice of drawing 
up Council minutes tends towards a very brief description of the decision taken. 
The content of Council discussions is in fact reflected more ful y in the press 
releases issued by the General Secretariat after each Council meeting than in the 
minutes of the meeting. Press releases are produced by the General Secretariat 
under its own responsibility.
The statements in the minutes reflect their authors’ positions. They cannot in any 
way restrict the scope or effects of the legal act, which can only be determined 
from the content of the act itself52; statements in the minutes can only serve to 
confirm an interpretation based on the wording of the act itself. A statement 
cannot therefore be taken as a basis for the interpretation of a provision in an act 
of secondary legislation if the content of the statement is not expressed in the 
text of the relevant provision53. 
51 
A summary record of Coreper’s meetings is also produced by the General Secretariat.
52  In its judgment of 15 April 1986, the Court stated the following: ‘the Court has 
consistently held that the true meaning of rules of Community law can be 
derived only from those rules themselves, having regard to their context. That 
meaning cannot therefore be affected by such a statement [referring to point 16: 
“statement… inserted in the Council minutes”].’. Case 237/84, Commission 
v. Kingdom of Belgium, ECR 1986 01247, point 17. Cf. also the judgment of the 
Court of 10 December 1991 in the Commission v. Hellenic Republic case, C 306/89, 
ECR 1991 I-05863, point 8.
53  Judgments of the Court of 26 February 1991, in case C-292/89, Antonissen, ECR 
1991 I-00745, point 18; 8 June 2000, in the Epson Europe case, C-375/98, ECR 2000 
I-04243, point 26; 10 January 2006, in the Skov Æg v. Bilka Lavprisvarehus A/S, Bilka 
Lavprisvarehus A/S v. Jette Mikkelsen and Michael Due Nielsen case, C-402/03, 
ECR 2006 I-00199, point 42; 27 February 2007, case C-354/04 P, Gestoras Pro Amnistía 
and others v. Council, ECR 2007 I-01579, point 60; 27 February 2007, case C-355/04 P, 
Segi and others v. Council, ECR 2007 I-01657, point 60.
40  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

For reasons of legal certainty and legitimate expectations, no statements which 
contradict the legal provisions, add elements to them or give them a specific 
interpretation should be made by the Council. In this respect, the Council has 
acknowledged that ‘Recourse to statements interpreting legal acts should 
therefore be avoided where possible and the content of possible statements 
should, as appropriate, be included in the text of the act’54. 
Statements by the Council do not form part of the legal act as such. Consequently, 
they do not follow the procedural rules laid down by the Treaties for the adoption 
of such acts. The Commission need not agree with their content, and Parliament 
need not be consulted. Statements cannot have any normative effect: for instance, 
they cannot oblige the Commission to act in a given way, since the Commission 
is bound to comply with the rules deriving from the legislative act itself. 
As regards the procedures for adoption, Council statements in the minutes the 
content of which relates directly to a legislative act must be adopted according 
to the same voting method as the legislative act itself. On the other hand, 
statements which have intrinsic content not directly related to the adoption of 
a legal act by the Council constitute political positions taken by the Council and 
must therefore be adopted by consensus.
B – Approval of minutes
The draft minutes are drawn up by the General Secretariat within fifteen days of 
the Council meeting and submitted for approval to the Council or, in most cases, 
to Coreper (Articles 13(2) and 19(7)(f) CRP).
Before the minutes are approved, any member of the Council, or the Commission, 
may request that more details be inserted in the minutes regarding any item on 
the agenda. A statement by a member of the Council or by the Commission 
which was not oral y made or communicated to all participants in advance of 
the meeting or during that meeting cannot be entered in the minutes. When 
approved, the minutes are signed by the Secretary-General of the Council, who 
may delegate signature to the Directors-General of the General Secretariat of the 
Council.
Once approved, the addendum to the minutes relating to the ‘Legislative 
deliberations’ part of Council meetings shall be forwarded directly to national 
parliaments and Member States’ governments at the same time.
54 
Statement by the Council on the occasion of the adoption of the interinstitutional 
agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting 
of Community legislation (OJ C 73, 17.3.1999, p. 1). Cf. also the statement by the 
European Parliament on the same occasion.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   41

6. PUBLIC ACCESS AND TRANSPARENCY 
     (ARTICLES 5 TO 10 CRP)
The principle of openness, laid down in Article 1 TEU, is reflected in the Council’s 
activities. The principle, now stated specifical y in the Treaties, is that ‘The Council 
shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act’ 
(Article 16(8)TEU)55.  Therefore the CRP provision according to which ‘Meetings of 
the Council shall not be public’ (Article 5(1) CRP) applies only when the Council 
is not deliberating and voting on draft legislative acts. The same applies with 
regard to the provision under which ‘the deliberations of the Council shall be 
covered by the obligation of professional secrecy’ (Article 6(1) CRP) which is 
tempered by the provisions concerning the holding of legislative deliberations, 
public deliberations and debates (A), making agendas public (B), making public 
votes and statements in the Council minutes (C) and public access to Council 
documents (D).
A – Legislative deliberations, public deliberations and debates
Whenever the Council deliberates and votes on legislative acts, such deliberations 
are open to the public. This is a Treaty obligation and no derogation is possible 
(Article 16(8)TEU and Article 7 CRP). In addition, Article 8 CRP specifies in which 
cases and under which conditions the Council opens its deliberations on non-
legislative acts to the public and the cases in which the Council holds public 
debates.
(a)  Legislative deliberations (legislative acts - Article 7 CRP)
The rule here is that the Council meets in public when it deliberates on draft 
legislative acts. The whole deliberation (including the final vote) must therefore 
take place in public when it concerns legislative acts. The Council agendas are 
in fact organised in a such a way so as to identify, in a part entitled ‘Legislative 
deliberations’, those legislative items, (whether ‘A’ , ‘B’ or ‘Any Other Business’ 
items) which are to be adopted, discussed or made public.
All documents submitted to the Council which are listed on the ‘Legislative 
deliberations’ part of the agenda, are made public (Article 7(2) CRP).
(b)  Public deliberations (non-legislative acts – Article 8 CRP)
Pursuant to Article 8 CRP, the Council’s first deliberation on important new non-
legislative proposals is open to the public where the proposals contain legal y 
binding rules in or for Member States. A distinction must be drawn between 
legal y binding rules which are adopted by means of regulations, directives or 
decisions on the basis of the Treaty, which are to be or may be made public, 
and internal measures, administrative or budgetary acts, acts concerning 
interinstitutional or international relations or non-binding acts, which are not 
open to the public.
55 
See also Article 15(2)TFEU which provides, ’The European Parliament shall meet in 
public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.’
42  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

It is for the Presidency to identify which new proposals are important although 
the Council or Coreper may explicitly decide otherwise by simple majority. In 
addition, the Presidency may decide, on a case-by-case basis, that the subsequent 
Council deliberations on one of the non-legislative proposals referred to above 
should also be opened to the public. Again, the Council or Coreper may decide 
otherwise by a simple majority. 
These items should be inserted in the ‘non-legislative activities’ part of the 
Council agenda together with the specific indication ‘Public deliberation’ 
(Article 8(4)(a) CRP).
(c)  Public debates
Under Article 8(2) and (3) CRP, the Council holds public debates on specific issues 
as well as public debates on programmes and priorities. 
(i)  Public debates on specific issues
On a decision taken by the Council or by Coreper, acting by a qualified majority, 
the Council holds public debates on important issues affecting the interests of 
the European Union and its citizens. (Article 8(2) first subparagraph CRP). It is for 
the Presidency, any member of the Council, or the Commission to propose issues 
or specific subjects for such debates (for instance, the Community framework for 
healthcare services). 
(ii)  Public debates on programmes and priorities
The Council is required to hold the following policy debates in public (Article 8(3) 
CRP): 
–  debates in the General Affairs Council on the Council’s 18-month programme;
–  policy debates in other Council configurations on their priorities;
–  the Commission’s presentation of its five-year programme, of its annual work 
programme and of its annual policy strategy, as well as the ensuing debates in 
the Council. 
(d)   Means of opening legislative deliberations, public deliberations and 
public debates to the public (Article 7(3) and last subparagraph of 
Article 8(4) CRP)
Council legislative deliberations, public deliberations and public debates are 
opened to the public in the following way: Council meetings are transmitted 
audio-visual y, notably in an overflow room, and also through broadcasting 
in all official languages of the institutions of the European Union using video 
streaming. A recorded version of such a Council meeting remains available for at 
least one month on the Council’s internet site (www.consilium.europa.eu). 
The outcome of voting, where applicable, is indicated visual y.
The General Secretariat of the Council informs the public in advance of the dates 
and approximate time on which such audio-visual transmissions will take place. 
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   43

B – Making agendas public
The specific provisions on public access to Council documents set out in 
Annex II CRP stipulate that ‘the General Secretariat of the Council shall make 
the provisional agendas for Council meetings available to the public as soon 
as they have been circulated’ (Article 11(3)(b) of Annex II CRP). The same applies 
to the agendas for meetings of the Council’s preparatory bodies, provided that 
they are not covered by any of the exceptions laid down in Article 4 of Regulation 
(EC) No 1049/200156. The public access rule does not, therefore, apply to the 
Political and Security Committee, the Military Committee, the Military Committee 
Working Group, the Politico–Military Working Party, the Security Committee and 
the Terrorism Working Parties (internal and international aspects). The provisional 
agenda is available before the meeting and updated if any changes are made. 
Since 1 January 2000, the list of provisional agendas has been made publicly 
available on the internet (www.consilium.europa.eu).
C –  The making public of votes, explanations of votes, statements in the 
minutes and minutes (Article 7 and 9 CRP)
Article 7 deals with the openness of the legislative procedure. It specifies in which 
cases and under which conditions the results of votes and explanations of votes by 
members of the Council or their representatives on the Conciliation Committee, 
as well as the statements in the minutes and the items in those minutes relating 
to the Conciliation Committee meeting57 are made public (Article 7(4) . 
Article 9 deals with openness in other cases. It specifies in which cases and 
under what conditions the results of votes and explanations of votes by Council 
members, as well as the statements in the minutes and the items in those minutes 
relating to the relevant acts58, are made public.
‘Votes’ comprise decisions taken unanimously (not including those taken by 
common accord) and decisions taken by a qualified majority or a simple majority. 
Except in cases where the Council’s deliberations are opened to the public under 
Articles 7 and 8 CRP, it is formal votes, i.e. the results of the votes (who voted for 
what), which are made public – that is, votes by which the Council adopts an act 
or adopts its position by virtue of the decision-making power conferred upon 
it by the Treaties or by an act based thereon. Accordingly, the results of votes 
are not normal y made public when the Council holds ‘indicative’ votes or when 
the results of votes form part of the preparatory phase of the decision making 
process (when they relate, for instance, to authorising the Commission to open 
negotiations with a view to the conclusion of an international agreement, and 
directives to that end) (Article 9(3) CRP). 
The principle of making public the results of votes applies, of course, both to 
decisions taken as ‘A’ items and those taken as ‘B’ items. 
An ‘explanation of a vote’ is a brief statement of the specific reasons which led a 
Council member to vote in a given way (for, against or abstention); it should add 
56  Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council 
of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and 
Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43).
57 
On ‘statements in the minutes’ and ‘minutes’, see Chapter II, point 5.
58 ibid.
44  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

something to the reasons set out in the recitals to the relevant act or, in the case 
of a vote against, it should not simply express a rejection of those reasons but 
give more explanation. 
As regards making public the results of votes, explanations of votes by Council 
members, statements in the minutes and items in the minutes relating to the 
relevant acts, a distinction must be drawn between cases in which they are 
automatical y made public and those in which they are made public by a Council 
or Coreper decision.
(a)  Automatic publicity
The results of votes, explanations of votes by Council members, statements 
in the minutes and the items in the minutes relating to the relevant acts are 
automatical y made public when: 
–  the Council deliberates and votes on legislative acts;
–  the Council deliberates on certain non-legislative acts which are opened to 
the public (Article 8(1) CRP);
–  the Conciliation Committee set up by Article 294 TFEU meets. In cases where 
Council members are represented in the Conciliation Committee, the results 
of their representatives’ votes, and explanations of those votes, are made 
public.
In the above cases, the results of votes, explanations of votes by Council members, 
statements in the minutes and the items in the minutes relating to the relevant 
acts are made public and the Council cannot decide otherwise. 
(b)  Publicity by a Council or Coreper decision
The results of votes are made public by a Council or Coreper decision when the 
Council acts within the framework of Title V TEU (CFSP) and in certain other cases. 
When the Council acts within the framework of Title V TEU (CFSP), the Council or 
Coreper decides unanimously in response to a request by a Council or Coreper 
member, whereas in other cases the decision is taken by a simple majority in 
response to a request by a Council or Coreper member. It is not possible to take 
a blanket decision, at the beginning of a Council meeting, to make public the 
results of the votes. A decision can only be taken on a case-by-case basis, after 
each vote. The President must therefore ask the Council members after each vote 
whether the results of the vote in question should be made public (in practice, 
this is included in the ‘A’ item notes). 
When the results of votes are made public in the cases set out above, the 
explanations of votes given at the time of voting are also made public at the request 
of the Council members concerned, with due regard for the CRP, the principle of 
legal certainty and the interests of the Council. The decision is taken by a simple 
majority. In this connection, it should be emphasised that, when drawing up their 
explanations of votes, Council members must comply with the principle of the 
professional secrecy of Council deliberations laid down in Article 6(1) CRP. 
With regard to explanations of votes, it should be noted that they can never be 
given after the event; they must always be communicated to the Council when 
the vote is held, either oral y or in writing. This needs to be done so that Council 
members can assess the extent to which the explanation is compatible with the 
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   45

CRP, legal certainty and the interests of the Council. The Commission must also 
be able to make any comments it may have. In addition, each Council member 
must be able to decide whether it considers it appropriate to request that the 
explanation of its own vote also be made public. 
Statements in the Council minutes and items in the minutes relating to the 
adoption of the acts referred to in the cases set out above are also made public 
by a Council or Coreper decision taken by a simple majority at the request of one 
of their members. 
In all cases where a vote is taken, it is for the Antici Group, the Mertens Group 
and the SCA to examine these statements before the definitive adoption of the 
act. The lists of ‘A’ items submitted to the Council are marked, where appropriate, 
‘S’, to indicate that the act in question is possibly accompanied by one or more 
statements entered in the Council minutes. Consequently, when the Council 
adopts an ‘A’ item bearing this reference, it decides ipso facto that the statements 
in question are not covered by professional secrecy and may therefore be made 
public.
D – Public access to documents
Under Article 15(3) TFEU, every citizen is entitled to have access to documents 
of the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The terms under which 
this right may be exercised are set out in Regulation No 1049/200159 and, more 
especial y as regards the Council, in Annex II to its CRP. They are explained in 
detail in the Council Guide Transparency – Access to documents
7.  LANGUAGE RULES (ARTICLE 14 CRP)
The language rules which apply to the Treaties (TEU, TFEU, Euratom) and the 
Treaties amending them (A) must be distinguished from the rules applicable to 
the institutions of the European Union (official languages and working languages) 
(B). Moreover, the use at the Council of additional languages whose status is 
recognised under the constitution of a Member State may be authorised (C). 
A – Language rules applying to the constituent Treaties
The texts of the treaties on which the European Union is founded are authentic in 
24 languages, namely Bulgarian, Spanish, Czech, Danish, German, Estonian, Greek, 
English, French, Irish, Croatian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Maltese, 
Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Finnish and Swedish60. 
59  Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council 
of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and 
Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43).
60  See Article 55 TEU, Article 358 TFEU, Article 225 of the Euratom Treaty, and acts 
of the Accession Treaties, most recently Articles 14 of the Act concerning the 
conditions of accession of the Republic of Croatia and the adjustments to the Treaty 
on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the 
Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community. See in this respect the 
Decision of the Council of the European Union of 5 December 2011 on the admission 
of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union (OJ L 112, 24.04.2012, p.6).
46  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

B –  Language rules applying to the institutions of the European Union 
(official languages and working languages)
The rules applicable to the institutions are based on Article 342 TFEU.
(a)  Basic texts
Article 342 TFEU instructs the Council to determine unanimously the rules 
governing the languages of the institutions of the Union ‘without prejudice to 
the provisions contained in the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European 
Union’. It was therefore on that basis that on 15 April 1958 the Council adopted 
Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic 
Community61  and Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by 
the European Atomic Energy Community62, which have been amended regularly 
by the various Acts of Accession (hereinafter referred to as ‘Regulation No 1’). 
Today, this Regulation provides for twenty-four official languages and working 
languages of the institutions of the European Union. The main provisions of that 
Regulation are as follows:
–  the official languages and the working languages of the institutions of the 
Union are Bulgarian, Spanish, Czech, Danish, German, Estonian, Greek, English, 
French, Irish, Croatian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Maltese, Dutch, 
Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Finnish, and Swedish (Article 1);
–  documents which a Member State or a person subject to the jurisdiction of a 
Member State sends to the institutions may be in one of the official languages 
selected by the sender, the reply being drafted in the same language, whereas 
documents which an institution sends to a Member State or to a person 
subject to its jurisdiction are drafted in the language of that State (Articles 2 
and 3); only the text in the languages used in that correspondence is authentic;
–  regulations and other documents of general application are drafted in the 
official languages (Articles 4 and 5); all the language versions are authentic.
One official and working language – Irish – is covered by temporary derogation 
measures in respect of these principles. Irish is one of the authentic languages 
of the constituent treaties. Since 1 January 2007 it has also become one of the 
official and working languages of the European Union by virtue of an amendment 
61 
Council Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the languages to be used 
by the European Economic Community (OJ 17, 6.10.1958, p. 385), as last amended 
by Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2015/2264 of 3 December 2015 (OJ L322, 
8.12.2015, p. 1-3).
62 
Council Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the languages to be 
used by the European Atomic Energy Community (OJ 17, 6.10.1958, p. 401), as 
last amended by Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2015/2264 of 3 December 
2015 (OJ L322, 8.12.2015, p. 1-3).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   47

to Regulation No 163, which nonetheless establishes the following temporary 
derogation measures:
–  for a renewable period of five years beginning on 1 January 2007, the 
institutions of the European Union will not be bound by the obligation to draft 
all acts in Irish and to publish them in that language in the Official Journal. 
This is, however, a partial derogation, and its scope does not cover regulations 
adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council (i.e. co-decision) 
which should therefore be adopted and published in all the official and 
working languages of the institutions, including Irish;
–  not later than four years from 1 January 2007 and at five-yearly intervals 
thereafter, the Council will determine unanimously whether to put an end to 
that derogation. 
(b)  Arrangements for internal implementation (Article 14 CRP)
Under Article 6 of the abovementioned Council Regulation No 1, the institutions 
may stipulate in their rules of procedure which of the languages are to be used 
in specific cases; the Council has done so in Article 14 CRP. This Article does not 
contain provisions on interpreting; it deals solely with language arrangements for 
documents submitted to the Council. 
(i)  The principle
Under Article 14(1) CRP, ‘[…] the Council shall deliberate and take decisions only 
on the basis of documents and drafts drawn up in the languages specified in the 
rules in force governing languages’ (i.e. the abovementioned Council Regulation 
No 1)64. The term ‘draft’ refers in particular to Commission proposals that must be 
submitted to the Council in the 24 – or, where the derogation for Irish applies, 
23 – official languages. If the Council does not have the relevant documentation 
available in all official languages on the day of the meeting, a delegation may 
oppose discussion of an item under Article 14 CRP. More especial y, Article 14(2) 
63  Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005 of 13 June 2005 amending Regulation 
No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the language to be used by the European 
Economic Community and Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the 
language to be used by the European Atomic Energy Community and introducing 
temporary derogation measures from those Regulations (OJ L 156, 18.6.2005, p. 3). 
On 20 December 2010, the Council decided to extend the derogation provided 
for in Article 2 of Regulation No 920/2005 for a period of 5 years from 1 January 2012 
by means of Council Regulation No 1257/2010 extending the temporary measures 
from Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining the languages to be used by the 
European Economic Community and Regulation No 1 of 15 April 1958 determining 
the languages to be used by the European Atomic Energy Community introduced 
by Regulation No 920/2005 (JO L 343, 29.12.2010, p. 5).
64 
Note that under the procedure provided for in Article 14(1) (unanimous decision 
concerning deliberations and decisions on the basis of documents and drafts not 
drawn up in all the languages), when under the Treaties members of the Council 
or of Coreper may not participate in the vote, account is not to be taken of votes of 
such members (Annex IV, paragraph 1(h) CRP). See Chapter III, point 1.C.
48  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

CRP enables any member of the Council to oppose discussion if the text of any 
proposed amendments is not drawn up in all the official languages65.
Therefore a particular effort is made by the translation services of the Council’s 
General Secretariat to ensure that documents are available in all required 
languages (23 or 24) at Council meetings. Subject to the possible derogations 
set out below, an act may only be adopted if it is available in good and due form 
(i.e. revised by the Legal/Linguistic Experts) in the 24 – or, where applicable, 23 – 
official languages.
Where the provisional agenda for a Council meeting contains a Commission 
proposal which the Commission, contrary to Regulation No 1, has not submitted 
to the Council in all languages, the item concerned cannot be included on the 
final agenda unless the Council agrees to its inclusion unanimously (equivalent 
to an item included out of time; see Article 3(4) and (7) CRP). However, this 
agreement may be deemed to be reached tacitly with the adoption of the final 
agenda when the meeting begins, without the need for adoption of a separate 
procedural decision. Where the Council is bound by a procedural time-limit (such 
as in an anti-dumping or ordinary legislative procedure), formal referral of the 
proposal to the Council takes place – and the time-limit begins – only once the 
Council has received the proposal in all languages.
It should be noted that:
–  regulations, directives or decisions adopted under the ordinary legislative 
procedure, Council and Commission regulations, Council and Commission 
directives addressed to all Member States and Council and Commission 
decisions which do not specify to whom they are adressed cannot enter 
into force (nor can the Member States be notified thereof), nor can they be 
published in the Official Journal, unless the text in question exists in all official 
languages (Articles 4 and 5 of Regulation No 1), i.e. in the 24 – or, where the 
derogation for Irish applies, 23 – official languages;
–  a position at first reading of the Council adopted pursuant to the ordinary 
legislative procedure is not forwarded to the European Parliament unless it is 
available in all 24 official languages.
(ii) Waivers
Article 14(1) CRP allows for the possibility of waiving the rule under which the 
Council deliberates and takes decisions only on the basis of documents and 
drafts drawn up in line with the language rules. The Council may decide to waive 
that rule, provided that it does so unanimously and on grounds of urgency. 
•  Unanimous decision to waive the rule
The Council may waive the rule set out in Article 14(1) CRP by unanimous 
agreement only. The same applies both in cases where the Council merely 
deliberates without adopting an act or adopts an act with no legal effect 
(a statement or conclusion) and in cases where the Council adopts a legal act 
65  A member of the Council or of Coreper may not make use of this provision 
in connection with decisions on which, under the Treaties, he or she may not 
participate in the vote (Annex IV, paragraph 2(d) CRP). See Chapter III, point 1.C.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   49

(a regulation, directive, decision or position at first reading under the ordinary 
legislative procedure).
However, only where the Council has to adopt a legal act must this agreement 
take the form of a procedural decision, taken separately and unanimously, with 
reference made to the urgent need to adopt the act in fewer languages than 
specified in the language rules. This procedural decision must be contained in 
the minutes of the Council meeting concerned. It may either, in respect of ‘A’ 
items, be indicated expressly in the ‘I/A’ item note submitted to the Council or, in 
respect of ‘B’ items, be taken oral y during the meeting. The Presidency must in 
this case explicitly acknowledge that procedural decision. Once the procedural 
decision has been taken, the Council may adopt the act in question under the 
voting rules provided for in the legal basis for the act. Thus, in practice, whenever 
the Council has recourse to the waiver provided for in Article 14(1) CRP when 
adopting a legal act, it is necessary to:
–  indicate it in the documents submitted to it (report to the Council, ‘I/A’ item 
notes);
–  record in the Council minutes the decision to have recourse to the waiver and 
outline briefly the grounds for that decision;
–  likewise record therein any decision to stay publication or notification of the 
act pending availability of the text in the 24 – or, as applicable, 23 – official 
languages (thereby rendering the matter concerned not urgent);
–  ensure subsequent adoption of the missing language versions by the Council 
(‘I/A’ item).
By contrast, where Council deliberations do not relate to the adoption of a legal 
act, unanimity on the waiver can be deemed to have been reached tacitly if no 
objections are raised when the Council deals with the item concerned, without 
the need for formal adoption of a separate procedural decision.
•  Grounds of urgency
The circumstances may be deemed urgent in particular in the following instances:
–  where failure to adopt an act threatens to place the Union in breach of 
international law; 
–  where the Council must adhere to a procedural time-limit (such as in an anti-
dumping or ordinary legislative procedure);
–  where a rapid decision in the field of the CFSP is imperative (see Article 30(2) 
TEU);
–  where there is the risk of a legal vacuum. 
In practice, the waiver is mainly used in the first few months following the 
accession of new Member States to the European Union, as revised translations 
in their languages may not be available within the period laid down. 
In principle, an act of general application (regulation, directive, decision addressed 
to all Member States, as well as decisions which do not specify to whom they are 
adressed) cannot enter into force unless it has been drawn up and published 
in all official languages. Having regard to the principle of legal certainty, an act 
of general application cannot be applied to those concerned before they have 
50  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with it66. Such an opportunity is 
provided when an act is drawn up in accordance with the language rules and is 
published in the Official Journal. 
Nevertheless, in cases of urgency, decisions referred to in Article 25 TEU – acts 
whose publication must be decided on a case-by-case basis67 – may enter into 
force prior to their having been drawn up in all languages, except where they 
affect the legal situation of individuals, be they physical or legal persons (as in the 
case of a visa ban, freezing of assets, etc.)68.
Thus, with the exception of the Article 25 TEU decisions referred to above, the 
circumstances can never real y be qualified as urgent when it comes to adopting 
an act of general application. An act of general application cannot be said to 
require urgent adoption when it has not been drawn up in all languages and thus 
will have no legal effect, since it cannot enter into force immediately. This is the 
case, for example, with regard to regulations, directives and decisions adopted 
under the ordinary legislative procedure, together with Council and Commission 
regulations and directives addressed to all Member States and Council and 
Commission decisions which do not specify to whom they are addressed. 
Pursuant to Article 297 TFEU, read in conjunction with Article 342 TFEU and 
Articles 3 and 4 of Regulation No 1, these acts only enter into force after they 
have been published in the Official Journal in all official languages. 
This being the case, where an act of this kind is nonetheless adopted in fewer 
languages than provided for under the language rules, it is important that the 
final clause relating to its entry into force should refer to a date set in relation to 
the date of publication in the Official Journal, rather than mentioning a specific 
date. This is necessary in order to avoid legal problems (such as the retroactive 
effect of an act which the legislator has not foreseen) in the event of the missing 
language versions being validated later than the date original y indicated.
It should be noted that an individual directive or decision may enter into force 
by virtue of its notification to the addressee in the latter’s language (see Article 3 
of Regulation No 1) before it has been drawn up in all languages and, where 
applicable, published in the Official Journal.
Where the Council uses the waiver to adopt an act in fewer official languages 
than provided for under the language rules, the sole date of adoption of the 
act in question is that of its adoption by the Council in fewer languages than 
provided for under the language rules. 
66 
See, for example, the judgment of the Court of 25 January 1979, Case 98/78 Racke, 
ECR 1979 00069, paragraph 15.
67 
Pursuant to Article 17(3) CRP, ‘The Council or Coreper shall decide unanimously, 
on a case-by-case basis, whether there should be publication in the Official Journal 
[…] of the decisions referred to in Article 25 of the TEU’.
68 
In the CFSP field, Council acts may be adopted by a simplified written procedure 
(known as COREU – see Article 12(2) CRP) particularly adapted to urgent situations 
justifying recourse to the waiver provided for in Article 14(1) CRP. See Chapter III, 
point 3.B.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   51

C – Use of additional languages
The Council conclusions of 13 June 200569 reflect the desire for account to be 
taken of languages other than official and working languages whose status is 
recognised by the constitution of a Member State in all or part of its territory or 
the use of which as a national language is authorised by law. It seeks to enable the 
Council – and possibly other EU institutions and bodies – to use such languages 
on the basis of an administrative arrangement concluded between the Member 
State in question and the Council, whereby:
–  translations into these languages of acts adopted in the ordinary legislative 
procedure by the European Parliament and the Council can be published 
(without their having legal status);
–  the government of a Member State may use one of these languages to address 
a meeting (passive interpreting);
–  citizens of the Member State concerned may send a communication to an 
institution or body in one of these languages, via a body appointed by said 
Member State, and may receive a reply in that language.
The Council has concluded such an arrangement with the Kingdom of Spain70 
regarding languages whose status is recognised by the Spanish constitution, 
namely Catalan/Valencian, Basque and Galician.
69 
OJ C 148, 18.6.2005, p. 1.
70 
OJ C 40, 17.2.2006, p. 2.
52  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

CHAPTER III – COUNCIL DECISION-MAKING
1. VOTING ARRANGEMENTS (ARTICLE 11 CRP)
A – Decision to take a vote
Under Article 11(1) CRP, the decision to hold a vote is taken by the Presidency, 
which judges its desirability, even if it may be obliged to do so by a decision 
of the Council taken by simple majority. Article 11(1), second subparagraph, CRP 
provides that any member of the Council or the Commission may request a vote. 
In such event, the Presidency must open a voting procedure, provided that 
a majority of the Council’s members so decide71. That provision merely reflects 
the unwritten general rule that the Presidency is always ‘in the Council’s hands’: 
the Council can always override a procedural decision taken by its President.
However, as stated earlier (see Chapter I , point 3), a set of rules is applied 
when setting the provisional agenda which makes ‘surprise’ voting impossible. 
Indicating an item with an asterisk on the provisional agenda to indicate that a vote 
may be taken on that item keeps Council members constantly aware of the 
possibility of such a vote. It does not, however, imply that a vote will necessarily 
be taken. The Presidency may decide whether or not to call a vote based on its 
assessment of the desirability of the vote.
B – Voting procedure
Pursuant to Article 11(2) CRP, the members of the Council vote in the order laid 
down in the list of successive presidencies, beginning with the member who, 
according to that order, follows the member holding the office of President. That 
practice is not always followed, but it is specifical y followed in circumstances 
where the vote is of greater significance or where delegations’ positions are not 
sufficiently clear. As often as not, at the end of the discussion, the Presidency asks 
the members voting for, against or wishing to abstain to identify themselves. 
Whatever the practice followed, it should be noted that the Council takes a vote 
whenever it adopts an act in accordance with the Treaty.
A member of the Council may wish to receive confirmation from his or her 
national authorities of the position to be adopted, or the internal formalities for 
defining his or her position may not be completed. He or she will then enter 
a reservation which may subsequently be withdrawn, but only during the same 
meeting. If at the end of the meeting the reservation is not withdrawn and that 
reservation has been converted into a vote against or an abstention whereby the 
71 
Note that when, under the Treaties, members of the Council may not participate 
in the vote, account is not to be taken of votes by such members in respect of the 
decision to take a vote (Annex IV, paragraph 1(f ) CRP). 
Furthermore, a member of the Council may not make use of this provision in 
connection with decisions on which, under the Treaties, that member may 
not participate in the vote (Annex IV, paragraph 2(b) CRP).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   53

required majority has not been achieved, the item is not adopted. Apart from 
the written procedure, formal voting is carried out only during a meeting of the 
Council.
Where the Council acts on a proposal from the Commission, at some stage in 
the procedure the Commission may be unable to agree to the amendments that 
the Council intends to make to its proposal. This situation changes the Council’s 
voting rules since, under Article 293(1) TFEU, the Council must act unanimously 
if it wishes to adopt an act constituting an amendment to the Commission 
proposal to which the Commission does not agree. In practice, therefore, the 
Council votes only when the Commission has clearly adopted a position on any 
amendment of its proposal. There is, however, no need for a written document 
to this effect: the Commission may amend its proposal in line with the Council’s 
desired amendments even orally during the meeting.
Final y, the Council (or its preparatory bodies) often takes a so-called ‘indicative’ 
vote that serves to define its members’ positions concerning the item under 
consideration. An ‘indicative’ vote is not a vote within the meaning of the Treaty 
and has no legal effect. Such a vote need not be made public (Article 9(3) CRP). 
Formal adoption must therefore take place in due course72.
The voting rules within the Council are laid down in Article 238 TFEU. Until 31 
October 2014, the voting rules were those laid out in Article 3 of Protocol (No 36) 
on transitional provisions. There are three voting rules provided for in the Treaty, 
namely: the Council acts by a majority of its members, by qualified majority or 
unanimously. Neither a ‘consensus’ nor a ‘common accord’73 constitutes a voting 
rule within the meaning of the Treaty in respect of the adoption of Council acts. 
By and large, and except in cases where the Treaty explicitly provides for recourse 
to a common accord, the rules are employed for the adoption of atypical acts 
of a political nature with no legal basis under the Treaty, such as resolutions, 
conclusions and declarations. 
Since decisions pursuant to the CRP are always procedural, the default voting rule 
in the CRP is simple majority, unless the CRP provisions specifical y provide for 
other voting arrangements (Article 1(5) first subparagraph CRP).
(a)  Simple majority voting
In accordance with Article 238(1) TFEU where it is required to act by a simple 
majority, the Council acts by a majority of its constituent members i.e. at twenty 
eight Member States, a majority of fifteen members. Such is the case, for example, 
with adoption of the CRP or procedural decisions (Article 240(3) TFEU), requests for 
studies or proposals addressed to the Commission (Article 241 TFEU) or decisions 
72 
See Chapter III, point 3, for voting by the written procedure.
73  Acts of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting 
within the Council are adopted by ‘common accord’, which implies the agreement 
of all the Member States. They are not Council acts. The TFEU, for example, provides 
in a number of provisions for the adoption of an act by the Member States 
themselves or their Governments rather than the Council (see Article 253 on the 
appointment of Judges and Advocates-General of the Court of Justice, Article 254 
on the appointment of Judges of the General Court, Article 341 on determining the 
seats of the institutions, etc.).
54  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

taken pursuant to Article 337 TFEU74. The Treaty makes specific provisions for the 
applicable voting rule when the default rule of qualified majority does not apply.
(b)  Qualified majority voting
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, qualified majority voting is the 
default voting rule (Article 16(3) TEU). It applies in particular in the areas subject to 
the ordinary legislative procedure.
In qualified majority voting, each Member State representative has a certain 
number of votes, the weighting for which is laid down in Article 3(3) of 
Protocol (No 36) on transitional measures annexed to the Treaties.
Since 1 November 2014, the new ‘double majority’ system has applied (Article 16(4) 
TEU and Article 238(2) TFEU). Under this system, a qualified majority in the Council 
is achieved if the following conditions are met:
(i)  Article 16(4) TEU: where the Council acts on a proposal from the Commission 
or from the High Representative, at least 55 % of the members of the Council 
(i.e. 16 members in favour out of the current 28 members), and representing 
Member States comprising at least 65 % of the Union’s population vote in 
favour. 
 
In addition, the blocking minority must include at least four Council members, 
failing which the qualified majority is deemed to be attained. In practice, this 
means that if 25 members – out of the current 28 members – vote in favour, 
the qualified majority is deemed to have been reached, with the percentage 
of population which they comprise becoming irrelevant for the definition of 
the qualified majority.
(i )  Article 238(2) TFEU: where the Council does not act on a proposal from the 
Commission or from the High Representative, at least 72 % of the Council 
members (i.e. 21 out of the current 28 members), representing Member 
States comprising at least 65 % of the Union’s population vote in favour.
In cases where not all members of the Council participate in voting pursuant to 
the Treaties, a qualified majority is achieved if the following conditions are met 
(Article 238(3) TFEU):
(i)  Where the Council acts on a proposal from the Commission or the High 
Representative, at least 55 % of the Council members respresenting the 
participating Member States and comprising at least 65 % of the population 
of these States vote in favour. 
 
In addition, the blocking minority must include at least the minimum number 
of Council members representing more than 35 % of the population of the 
participating Member States, plus one member, failing which the qualified 
majority is deemed to be attained.
74 
See judgment of the Court of 9 November 1995, Case C 426/93 Germany v. Council 
[1995] ECR I 3723.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   55

(i ) Where the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or the
High Representative, at least 72 % of the Council members representing the
participating Member States and comprising at least 65 % of the population
of these States vote in favour.
The Council approves the figures for the total population of each Member
State every year on the basis of the annual data sent by the Member States to 
the Statistical Office of the European Union. These figures, as last amended,
are listed in Annex III CRP.
Request for alternative voting rules
From 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2017, a member of the Council may request 
that the adoption of an act be carried out in accordance with the ‘weighted voting’ 
rules laid down in Article 3 of Protocol (No 36) on transitional provisions annexed 
to the Treaties. Those rules – as amended in the Act of Accession of Croatia – lay 
down that, for an act to be adopted by a qualified majority, there must be at least 
260 votes (out of 352) in favour representing at least a majority of the members 
(15 members out of 28) in the case of acts to be adopted on a proposal from the 
Commission or representing at least two thirds of the members (19 members out 
of 28) if the act does not require a proposal from the Commission. 
The members’ votes are weighted as follows: 
DE, FR, IT, UK 
29
ES, 
PL
27
RO
14
NL
13
BE, CZ, EL, HU, PT 
12 
BG, AT, SE 
10
DK, IE, HR, LT, SK, FI 
7
EE, CY, LV, LU, SI 
4
MT
3
A request can be made in written or oral form. The request should be for a single 
act to be adopted by qualified majority and the request should properly identify 
the act. If a request is submitted in writing to the Secretary-General, it should be 
circulated to all delegations by means of an ST document. If it is made oral y at a 
Coreper or Council meeting, it should be recorded in the minutes. The request 
remains valid until it is explicitly withdrawn.
When an act is to be adopted by a written procedure, decided by the Council or 
Coreper, the request must be made before the written procedure is launched. If 
the President proposes the use of that procedure, it must be assumed that the 
default voting system (i.e. ‘double majority’) applies unless a delegation requests 
or has previouly requested the application of the ‘weighted voting‘ rules; such 
request may be made after the President has proposed the use of that procedure 
but at the latest before all members have agreed to it. (For more information on 
the written procedure see point 3.)
56  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

(c) Unanimity
Article 238(4) TFEU provides that abstentions by members present in person or 
represented must not prevent the adoption by the Council of acts which require 
unanimity. 
In addition to cases in which the Council adopts an act amending a Commission 
proposal (Article 293(1) TFEU), unanimity is required by a number of Articles of the 
TFEU, such as those concerning harmonisation of indirect taxation (Article 113), 
legislative harmonisation in fields other than those provided for in Article 114 
TFEU (Article 115), certain measures to protect the environment (Article 192(2)) 
and also certain measures in the fields of social policy (Articles 153(2) and 155(2)) 
and, in addition, of course, to the flexible clause in the form of Article 352.
C – Absence of the possibility to participate in the vote
There are cases in respect of which the Treaties stipulate that members of the 
Council may not participate in votes to adopt certain decisions. In these cases, 
Article 16 CRP provides that account is not taken of the votes by such members 
of the Council or of Coreper for the application of certain provisions of the CRP, 
which are listed in Annex IV thereto75. Those provisions are:
(a)  Article 1(3), second subparagraph (holding of a meeting in a place other than 
Brussels or Luxembourg);
(b)  Article 3(7) (inclusion on the agenda of an item other than those appearing 
on the provisional agenda);
(c)  Article 3(8) (maintaining as a ‘B’ item on the agenda an ‘A’ item which would 
otherwise have had to be withdrawn from the agenda);
(d)  Article 5(2), as regards the presence of the European Central Bank only 
(deliberation without the presence of the European Central Bank);
(e) Article 9(2), first subparagraph, point (b), and second and third 
subparagraphs (making public the results of votes, explanations of votes, 
statements in the Council minutes and items in those minutes relating 
to cases other than those when the Council adopts non-legislative acts 
referred to in Article 8(1) CRP);
(f)  Article 11(1), second subparagraph (opening of a voting procedure);
(g)  Article 12(1) (use of the written procedure);
(h)  Article 14(1) (decision to deliberate and take decisions exceptional y on the 
basis of documents and drafts not drawn up in all the languages);
(i)  Article 17(2)(a) (non-publication in the Official Journal of an initiative 
presented by a Member State pursuant to Article 76 TFEU);
75 
It should be pointed out, however, that according to statement (g) re Article 16 and 
Annex IV, ‘The Council agrees that the provisions of Article 16 and Annex IV apply to 
acts for the adoption of which some members of the Council are, under the Treaties, 
not entitled to vote. However, application of Article 7 of the TEU is not covered by 
those provisions’. The statement stipulates further that ‘In the first application of the 
provisions on enhanced cooperation, the Council will, in the light of experience 
acquired in other fields, consider any adaptations necessary to Article 16 of and 
Annex IV to these Rules of Procedure’.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   57

(j)  Article 17(2)(b) (non-publication in the Official Journal of certain directives, 
decisions, recommendations and opinions);
(k)  Article 17(5) (whether to publish in the Official Journal decisions taken by a 
body set up under an international agreement).
Furthermore, it is stipulated that a member of the Council or of Coreper may 
not make use of certain provisions of the CRP in connection with decisions on 
which, under the Treaties, that member may not participate in the vote. Those 
provisions are:
(l)  Article 3(8) (possibility of a member of the Council requesting withdrawal of 
an ‘A’ item from the agenda);
(m) Article 11(1), second subparagraph (possibility of a member of the Council 
requesting the opening of a voting procedure);
(n)  Article 11(3) (possibility of a member of the Council acting on behalf of 
another in a vote);
(o)  Article 14(2) (possibility for any member of the Council to oppose discussion 
if the texts of any proposed amendments are not drawn up in the language 
he or she has specified).
2. QUORUM AND DELEGATION OF VOTING RIGHTS 
     (ARTICLES 4 AND 11 CRP)
A – Quorum
The quorum requirement must be read in the light of Article 16(2) TEU, which 
provides that the Council consists of a representative of each Member State at 
ministerial level who may commit the government of that Member State and cast 
its vote, and of Article 239 TFEU, which provides that, when a vote is taken, any 
member of the Council may act on behalf of not more than one other member 
(see B). It follows that the physical presence of a majority of the members of the 
Council is required to enable the Council to vote (at twenty eight members, the 
majority is fifteen).
The quorum must be checked when Council acts and decisions are to be 
adopted. 
Of course, a quorum is vital both for the adoption of ‘A’ items and for the adoption 
of an act or decision as a ‘B’ item.
Responsibility for checking that there is a quorum for each instance of decision-
making by the Council lies with the President, assisted by the General Secretariat.
B – Delegation of voting rights
Article 11(3) CRP replicates Article 239 TFEU in stipulating that ‘Where a vote is 
taken, any member of the Council may also act on behalf of not more than one 
other member’76. It follows that each Council member may act on behalf of one, 
and not more than one, other member.
76 
If a member of the Council or Coreper cannot take part in the voting, he or she may 
not act on behalf of another in a vote (Annex IV, point (2)(c)).
58  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

Delegation of voting rights is not subject to any kind of formality and is done as 
a matter of course. Once there is a quorum, it can justifiably be assumed that an 
absent member of the Council will have delegated his or her voting rights to 
a fellow Council member. In such an event it is also assumed that the vote of an 
absent member has been cast by a fellow Council member. 
Delegation of voting rights under Article 11(3) CRP is different from the 
representation of a Council member as provided for in Article 4 CRP. A member 
of the Council who is unable to attend a meeting may arrange to be represented. 
In practice, the position of the member in question is voiced by the Permanent 
Representative or Deputy Permanent Representative of the Member State 
concerned, even though, in formal terms, the power to represent the member 
does not include the right to vote, which may be exercised only by a Council 
member. 
3. WRITTEN PROCEDURE (ARTICLE 12 CRP)
Recourse to the written procedure is prompted by grounds of urgency. Such 
grounds arise, for instance, where failure to adopt a Council act by a specific date 
would create a legal vacuum, or in general terms, where an act must be adopted 
by a certain deadline but a Council meeting has not been scheduled and cannot 
be arranged in good time. 
The CRP make provision for two types of written procedure, namely the ordinary 
written procedure and the simplified written procedure (known as the ‘silence 
procedure’). 
A – Ordinary written procedure
Under this procedure, two possibilities exist for deciding to use the written voting 
procedure:
– the decision to use the written procedure may be taken beforehand, 
unanimously, at a Council or Coreper meeting77;
–  failing that, and in specific circumstances, the Presidency may propose use 
of the written procedure by means of the written procedure itself. In that 
case, the decision to agree to use the written procedure forms part of the 
procedure itself: all the members of the Council must agree to use of the 
written procedure before expressing their substantive opinions.
In both cases, the Commission must also agree to use of the written procedure if 
it concerns a matter brought before the Council by the Commission.
Consequently, where a decision has already been taken within the Council or 
Coreper to adopt the written procedure, the only question put in writing to 
members of the Council will be whether they agree to adopt the act concerned, 
whether they object or whether they abstain. The conditions for adopting the act 
are met as soon as the number of positive replies received tal ies with the number 
of votes required, in accordance with the voting rules applicable to its adoption.
77  Note that in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 12(1) CRP 
(unanimous decision to use the written procedure), when, under the Treaties, 
members of the Council or of Coreper may not participate in the vote, account is 
not to be taken of votes by such members (Annex IV, point (1)(g)).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   59

However, if use of the written procedure has not been decided beforehand within 
the Council or Coreper, the members of the Council and, where appropriate, the 
Commission (if the procedure concerns a matter which it has brought before the 
Council), must reply to the first question concerning use of the written procedure 
and the members of the Council must express their positions on the second 
question concerning adoption of the act, which remains subject to the relevant 
voting rules.
In order to expedite the written procedures, replies must be addressed to the 
General Secretariat official responsible for the file. Replies must, of course, be 
written (email suffices). Oral replies are not sufficient in any case. 
If the deadline for replying has not already been agreed within the Council or 
Coreper, it is set in accordance with the urgency of the matter. The importance 
of meeting the deadline must be emphasised, above all if the act has to be 
adopted before a specific date. If replies are late, the General Secretariat will issue 
a reminder. If the delay continues, an assessment should be made on a case-by-
case basis of whether the period after which the procedure must be concluded 
is reasonable and whether its outcome is considered as being negative.
Once the General Secretariat is certain that the conditions for adoption of the 
act have been met, it takes the necessary steps for signature, publication in the 
Official Journal, or notification of addressees. 
It is the General Secretariat’s responsibility to conclude written procedures and 
to note their results.
Here, all members of the Council and, where appropriate, the Commission are 
informed of any unilateral statements made by the other members of the Council 
or by the Commission. They must be granted a short period of time in which 
to decide if they wish to respond to those statements. Neither the conduct nor 
the completion of the written procedure for adoption of the act concerned is 
affected by such statements.
Acts adopted by the written procedure are regularly the subject of press releases 
drawn up individual y by the General Secretariat’s press office. On such occasions 
the outcome and explanation of the vote are made public, together with the 
statements, under the terms of Article 9 CRP (see Chapter II, point 6.C).
The General Secretariat produces a monthly summary of acts adopted under the 
written procedure, which also includes any statements and explanations of votes. 
The sections of the summary which relate to adoption of legislative acts must be 
made public.
In addition, at least the following are archived by the General Secretariat:
–  the communication opening the written procedure, the document on which 
the procedure was based and any Council statements; 
– the replies from members of the Council and, where appropriate, the 
Commission, together with any unilateral statements;
–  the duly signed original of the act adopted by the Council.
B – Simplified written procedure (‘silence procedure’)
The simplified written procedure is to be understood as meaning a written 
procedure under which no response from a member of the Council by the time 
a set deadline expires implies acceptance of the adoption of the act in question. 
60  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

In contrast to the ordinary written procedure, Council members are not obliged 
to respond expressly. That is why the procedure has been dubbed the ‘silence 
procedure’.
The silence procedure is launched on the initiative of the Presidency, although 
any member of the Council, and the Commission, is free to suggest using the 
procedure to the Presidency. Here, too, the Presidency sets the deadline for 
this procedure, depending on the urgency of the matter. The act to which the 
procedure refers is deemed to have been adopted when this deadline expires, 
except where a member of the Council objects. The Commission is not entitled 
to lodge an objection in this regard. If a member of the Council objects to the 
adoption of an act, the act must be included as an item on a Council agenda as 
usual. 
The Council may act under the silence procedure in four instances:
–  for the purpose of adopting the text of a reply to a written question or, as 
appropriate, to an oral question submitted to the Council by a Member of the 
European Parliament, after the draft reply has been examined by Coreper78; 
–  for the purpose of appointing Members of the Economic and Social Committee 
and Members of the Committee of the Regions, and their alternates, after the 
draft decision has been examined by Coreper; 
–  for the purpose of deciding to consult other institutions or bodies, wherever 
such consultation is required by the Treaties; 
–  for the purpose of implementing the common foreign and security policy 
through the ‘COREU’ network79 (‘COREU silence procedure’)80.
As is the case with the ordinary written procedure, the General Secretariat 
establishes that the written procedures have been completed. 
Should a Council member object, the relevant text is not adopted and the 
normal preparatory procedure for Council acts should be followed, i.e. the text 
is either forwarded to Coreper if it is an act which can be adopted by Coreper 
under Article 19(7) CRP or it is sent to Coreper/Council for those acts which need 
to be adopted by Council or it is agreed by silence procedure once the matter has 
been cleared in the relevant Council working party.
78 
Statement (e) re Article 12(2)(a), (b) and (c) CRP: ‘In accordance with the Council’s 
regular practice, the time limit fixed will normally be three working days’.
79 
The Council conclusions of 12 June 1995 [document 7896/95] state that the COREU 
network allows for the exchange of information between Member States’ Foreign 
Ministries and the Commission, and consultation on political analyses relating to 
multilateral questions or third-country situations. The network is reserved for ques-
tions covered only by the provisions of Title V, which covers neither institutional 
questions nor questions relating to the use of the Union budget to which other 
Treaty titles also apply. The network must therefore not be used to set out or deal 
with Union subjects or, consequently, for matters relating to the Union’s external 
relations.
80  Statement (f ) re Article 12(2)(d): ‘The Council would point out that the COREU 
network must be used in accordance with the Council conclusions of 12 June 1995 
concerning the Council’s working methods’.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   61


CHAPTER IV – COUNCIL ACTS AND 
THEIR FORM

The form of Council acts is governed by Article 15 and Annex VI CRP. The publication 
of these acts and their notification to addressees are governed, respectively, by 
Articles 17 and 18 CRP. Also of general relevance is Article 22 CRP, which provides 
that in order to assist the Council in its task of ensuring the drafting quality of the 
legislative acts which it adopts, the Legal Service is responsible for checking the 
drafting quality of proposals and draft acts at the appropriate stage, as well as 
for bringing drafting suggestions to the attention of the Council and its bodies, 
pursuant to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998.
1. SIGNING OF ACTS (ARTICLE 15 CRP)
Like Article 297 TFEU, Article 15 CRP provides for the obligation to sign acts 
adopted by the Council, alone or together with the European Parliament in 
accordance with a legislative procedure.
Those acts must be signed by the President-in-Office of the Council at the time of 
their adoption and by the Secretary-General of the Council who may delegate his 
or her power to sign to Directors General of the General Secretariat.
In practice, the President of the Council signs the last page of the original text of 
the act (this is a multilingual page); signing takes place at the Council meeting 
which adopted the act concerned. The Secretary-General subsequently signs the 
same page of the text, the original of which is forwarded to the Council General 
Secretariat’s archives, where it is kept in a safety vault.
Acts adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure, which must be signed 
jointly by the President of the European Parliament and the President of the 
Council, are signed either at the time of the joint press conference at which 
the adoption of the act is announced, or during a plenary part-session of the 
European Parliament.
Where a Council act has been adopted in fewer language versions than provided 
for under the language rules in force (Article 14 CRP), the other language versions 
must be signed by the President of the Council meeting at which they were 
‘validated’, even if this occurs under a Presidency subsequent to that under which 
the act was formal y adopted and signed. The reason for this is that the Council is 
a single entity and the principle of institutional continuity applies. 
In such a case, the date of adoption of the act is the one of the first adoption in 
the fewer language versions. The dates of ‘validation’ of the remaining language 
versions is not the date of adoption.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   63

2.  TITLE AND FORM OF REGULATIONS (ANNEX VI, PART A.1 CRP)
Annex VI, Part A specifies the various features which must be included in the 
title of regulations adopted by the Council, alone or together with the European 
Parliament under a legislative procedure:
–  the word ‘Regulation’;
–  the serial number;
–  the date of adoption;
–  the subject-matter.
Implementing regulations adopted by the Council in accordance with 
Article 291(2) TFEU must also bear the words ‘Implementing Regulations’ in their 
title.
These are features which must be included in the regulation and which serve to 
identify it; moreover, acts adopted by the Council, alone or under the ordinary 
legislative procedure with the European Parliament, also contain the name(s) of 
the institution(s) which adopted the act and an indication of the European Union 
or Euratom. 
The structure of the preamble to regulations adopted by the Council, alone 
or under the ordinary legislative procedure with the European Parliament, is 
specified in Annex VI, Part A.1(b) to (f).
The preamble must contain:
–  the words ‘The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union’ 
or ‘The Council of the European Union’;
–  a reference to the provisions under which the regulation is adopted, preceded 
by the words ‘Having regard to’;
–  a citation containing a reference to proposals submitted and to opinions 
obtained;
–  a statement of the reasons on which the regulation is based, preceded by the 
word ‘Whereas’, the recitals being numbered;
–  the words ‘have adopted this Regulation’ or ‘has adopted this Regulation’, 
followed by the enacting terms of the Regulation.
This structure incorporates the features provided for in Article 296 TFEU and also 
fulfils the obligation laid down by those provisions to state the reasons on which 
acts are based.
With regard to citations, it should be noted that the legal bases of the regulation 
and the prior procedural acts are set out in that order and preceded by the 
words ‘Having regard to’. It should also be noted that, according to the Manual of 
64  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

Precedents for acts established within the Council of the European Union81, proposals, 
opinions, consents etc. as well as consultations are indicated in the citations at the 
beginning of the preamble to an act, just after the reference to the legal bases, 
using the words ‘Having regard to’ or ‘After consulting’, while non-obligatory 
opinions and consultations are mentioned after the citations using formulas such 
as ‘Having regard to the opinion of’ or ‘After consulting’, etc.
The citations are followed by the recitals, which constitute the reasons, in the 
strict sense, for the regulation. They are introduced by the word ‘Whereas’ and 
are also numbered.
3.  STRUCTURE OF REGULATIONS 
  (ANNEX VI, PART A.2, 3 AND 4 CRP)
The enacting terms of a regulation contain articles which may be grouped, in 
descending order, into parts, titles, chapters and sections (or into some of them); 
no other name, such as ‘rule’ or ‘principle’ is permitted to describe or subdivide 
the components of the enacting terms of the regulation.
To take account of Article 297 TFEU concerning the entry into force of regulations, it 
is provided that if the Council, alone or, in accordance with the ordinary legislative 
procedure, with the European Parliament, wants a regulation to enter into force 
on a date other than the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal, 
it must stipulate the date in the last article. If appropriate, that article may contain 
details of the date on which the regulation enters into force. The last article of 
a regulation is followed by a form of words reflecting the general scope and the 
binding character of the regulation as provided for in Article 288 TFEU. In certain 
cases a regulation is not applicable in all Member States (see Annex VI, 
Part A.4(a)(ii) CRP).
81 
Manual of Precedents for acts established within the Council of the European Union
version of January 2015, page 77, chapter 2:
‘(a)  The citations, which appear at the beginning of the preamble, serve to indicate:
—  the legal bases of the act,
—  the proposals, initiatives, recommendations, requests, opinions, and consents 
which must be obtained as laid down in the Treaties (procedural acts not provided 
for by the Treaties are mentioned in a final recital).
(b)  In the case of legislative acts, citations are added regarding:
—  the transmission of a draft legislative act to national parliaments,
—  the procedure followed (the ordinary or a special legislative procedure).
(c)  Care should be taken to ensure that the citation does not contain material 
which should instead be included in the recitals. For example:
—  where the main content of provisions other than the legal bases needs to be 
repeated in order for the enacting terms to be understood, or in order to facilitate a 
judicial review of the validity of the act, that repetition should occur in the recitals,
—  certain preliminary procedural steps (opinions of technical bodies and non 
mandatory consultations) normally appear at the end of the recitals and are 
introduced by expressions such as ‘On … the Committee on … delivered its 
opinion.’,  ‘The Committee on … has been consulted.’
(d)  All draft legislative acts addressed to the uropean Parliament and to the Council 
must be transmitted to the national parliaments and must therefore contain the 
appropriate citation.’
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   65

Next, the place and date of adoption of the regulation are indicated. 
A Council regulation is normal y ‘Done at Brussels’ unless adopted in April, June 
and October, periods during which Council meetings are held in Luxembourg82. 
Regulations adopted by the European Parliament and the Council under the 
ordinary legislative procedure give Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg as the 
place of signature, as appropriate.
The name(s) of the signatory or signatories appear(s) at the end of the enacting 
terms: depending on the case, the name of the President of the European 
Parliament (on the left-hand side at the foot of the enacting terms) and that of 
the President of the Council (on the same line on the right-hand side), or else only 
the name of the President of the Council in office at the time of the regulation’s 
adoption. This is the layout of the text of the regulation as it appears in the Official 
Journal. The name of the Secretary-General (who, pursuant to Article 15 CRP, also 
signs the text of the regulation adopted) does not appear in the Official Journal.
4. TITLE AND FORM OF OTHER ACTS OF SECONDARY 
 
     LEGISLATION (ANNEX VI, PART B CRP)
Annex VI, Part B, gives rules for the title, preamble and enacting terms of other 
Council acts: it accordingly provides that directives, decisions, recommendations 
and opinions should include in their titles, respectively, the word ‘Directive’, 
‘Decision’, ‘Recommendation’ or ‘Opinion’.
Implementing Directives or Decisions adopted by the Council in accordance 
with Article 291(2) TFEU must also bear the words ‘Implementing Directive’ or 
‘Implementing Decision’ in their title.
No mention is made, however, of the other features (serial number, date of 
adoption, subject-matter) which must be included in the titles of regulations. In 
practice, however, all Council acts include all these other features, which enable 
them to be identified. For the preamble and enacting terms, Annex VI, Part B, 
refers to the provisions of Part A, which applies mutatis mutandis and subject to 
the provisions of the TFEU on directives and decisions83.
5. FORM OF DECISIONS REFERRED TO IN ARTICLE 25 TEU   
     (ANNEX VI, PART C CRP)
Part C of Annex VI simply defines the title which must be attributed to decisions 
referred to in Article 25 TEU (CFSP).
The title of these decisions must read: ‘Council Decision’, a serial number ((CFSP) 
year/number), the date of adoption and the subject-matter.
82 
For the Council‘s venues of meetings, see Chapter II, point 2.B.
83 
For example: the wording concerning the general scope and binding character of 
the act referred to in Part A.4 appears only in regulations; in directives, the last article 
indicates the Member State(s) to which the directive is addressed.
66  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

6. ATYPICAL ACTS
Mention should also be made here of certain kinds of act (e.g. declarations, 
resolutions, conclusions) which are frequently used by the institutions although 
not provided for by the Treaties.
When debating and adopting conclusions or other acts not provided for in the 
Treaties, the following guidelines apply:
a)  Throughout the negotiation of a draft legislative act, the adoption of any 
form of document, even if its aim is purely political, outside the legislative 
procedure described in the Treaties must be prohibited on the basis of the 
final paragraph of Article 296 TFEU, if the content of that document addresses 
issues covered by the draft legislative act.
b)  Conclusions – as well as resolutions and statements not linked to the adoption 
of a legal act – are the Council’s ordinary means of expression when it is not 
exercising the powers conferred upon it by the Treaties. In principle, they 
have the status of purely political commitments or positions with no legal 
effect. Since they are not legal acts of the Council within the meaning of 
the Treaties, they are not subject to the procedural rules set out in the legal 
bases that they might have referred to in view of their substantive content 
if a decision making power had been exercised in their adoption. Given the 
lack of a formal adoption procedure in Union law, the Council decides on 
conclusions by consensus, meaning that a vote is not taken but they are not 
passed if any Council member opposes them.
c)  As an exception to this principle, the Council sometimes adopts, in the form 
of conclusions, certain acts having or designed to have a legal effect, such as 
Union positions in the field of CFSP, Union positions in an international body 
called upon to adopt acts with legal effects, or requests to the Commission 
to submit a specific proposal. In these cases, the Council must respect the 
procedural requirements (including the voting arrangements) provided for in 
the Treaties, in line with the legal basis conferring on the Council the power 
to act, which it uses by adopting a legal act in the form of conclusions. If the 
conclusions contain other elements of a political nature as well as a legal act, 
that fact cannot justify the use of consensus to adopt the entire document, 
and thus the legal act.
d)  Whether or not draft conclusions are designed to produce legal effects is 
determined by analysing the specific aim and content of the document, 
irrespective of what it is called.
e)  Acts having a legal effect may not be adopted in the form of conclusions if 
the Treaties prescribe the form that the Council’s action must take, and that 
form is incompatible with conclusions. For example, there is no problem of 
incompatibility with the form of conclusions, in principle, when the provisions 
state that the Council must adopt a decision or a recommendation, on the 
understanding that in such cases, the procedural and voting arrangements 
set out in the Treaty (including the default use of qualified majority voting 
under Article 16(3) TEU) are applicable, rather than consensus.
f)  As the functioning of the Union is subject to the principle of conferral 
(Articles 4 and 5 TEU), the Union institutions – including the Council – cannot 
take a stance on subjects that are completely unrelated to the Union’s areas 
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   67

of activity, even in documents of a purely political nature, without exceeding 
their powers. Any conclusions referring exclusively to such subjects should 
be adopted by the representatives of the Member States’ governments 
meeting within (or in the margins of) the Council. If conclusions refer in part 
to such subjects and no decision has been made to separatse Union and non 
Union matters, the conclusions should be adopted jointly by the Council and 
the representatives of the Member States’ governments meeting within the 
Council.
7. PUBLICATION OF ACTS IN THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE 
     EUROPEAN UNION (ARTICLE 17 CRP)
The Official Journal is divided into two series, ‘L’ and ‘C’.
There are four headings in the ‘L’ series84:
–  heading L I: legislative acts (regulations, directives, decisions and budgets);
– heading L I : non-legislative acts (international agreements, regulations, 
directives, decisions, recommendations, guidelines, rules of procedure, acts 
adopted by bodies created by international agreements);
–  heading L II : other acts (European Economic Area);
–  heading L IV: acts adopted before 1 December 2009 under the EC Treaty, the 
EU Treaty and the Euratom Treaty.
The ‘C’ series has five headings:
–  heading C I: resolutions, recommendations and opinions;
–  heading C II: information (interinstitutional agreements, joint declarations, 
information from European Union institutions, bodies and agencies);
– heading C II : preparatory acts (Member States’ initiatives, European 
Parliament, Council, European Commission, Court of Justice of the European 
Union, European Central Bank, Court of Auditors, High Representative of the 
Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Economic and Social 
Committee, Committee of the Regions, European Investment Bank, European 
Union offices and agencies);
–  heading C IV: notices (notices from European Union institutions, bodies, offices 
and agencies; notices from Member States; notices concerning the European 
Economic Area; notices from third countries);
–  heading C V:  announcements (administrative procedures, court proceedings, 
procedures relating to the implementation of the common commercial policy, 
procedures relating to the implementation of competition policy, other acts).
Pursuant to Article 17 CRP, legislative acts adopted under the ordinary or special 
legislative procedure and non-legislative acts in the form of regulations and 
directives which are addressed to all Member States, as well as decisions which 
do not specify to whom they are addressed, must be published in the Official 
Journal by the Secretary-General. Publication in the Official Journal is a condition 
84 
For a comprehensive list, see document 6700/1/10 REV 1 of 8 June 2010.
68  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

of the applicability of those acts and their entry into force may be subject thereto 
(Article 297(1) and second subparagraph of paragraph (2) TFEU).
Article 17 CRP stipulates that the following must also be published in the Official 
Journal by the Secretary-General:
–  positions at first reading adopted by the Council in accordance with the 
ordinary legislative procedure, and the reasons underlying those positions;
–  initiatives presented to the Council in accordance with Article 76 TFEU for the 
adoption of a legislative act;
–  international agreements concluded by the Union;
–  international agreements concluded by the Union in matters concerning the 
common foreign and security policy, unless the Council decides otherwise on 
the grounds of Articles 4 and 9 of Regulation No 1049/2001 of the European 
Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to 
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
Reference must be made in the Official Journal to the entry into force of 
agreements published in the Official Journal.
Unless the Council or Coreper decides otherwise, the following are also published 
in the Official Journal by the Secretary-General:
–  proposals from the Commission or initiatives by a quarter of the Member 
States presented to the Council pursuant to Article 76 TFEU in cases other than 
those referred to above (i.e. not Article 76 TFEU intiatives presented for the 
adoption of a legislative act);
–  directives and decisions referred to in the third subparagraph of Article 297(2) 
TFEU (non-legislative directives not addressed to the Member States and 
decisions which specify to whom they are addressed), recommendations and 
opinions, with the exception of decisions referred to in Article 25 TEU.
Decisions concerning common foreign and security policy referred to in 
Article 25 TEU are published in the Official Journal by the Secretary-General, 
following a decision by the Council or Coreper acting unanimously, on a case-
by-case basis.
The following are published in the Official Journal, following a decision by the 
Council or Coreper85, on a case-by-case basis and taking account of possible 
publication of the basic act, by the Secretary-General:
–  decisions implementing the decisions referred to in Article 25 TEU;
–  decisions adopted in accordance with the first and second indents of 
Article 31(2) TEU;
–  other Council acts, such as conclusions or resolutions.
85 
For the purposes of any such decision, where members of the Council or of Coreper 
may not take part in the vote, account is not to be taken of votes by such members 
(Annex IV, point 1(k)).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   69

Where an agreement concluded between the Union or the European Atomic 
Energy Community and one or more States or international organisations sets 
up a body vested with powers of decision, it is for the Council to decide whether 
decisions to be taken by that body should be published in the Official Journal 
(Article 17(5) CRP).
8. NOTIFICATION AND TRANSMISSION OF ACTS (ARTICLE 18 CRP)
The first two paragraphs of Article 18 instruct the Secretary-General, or a Director-
General acting on his or her behalf, to give notification of or transmit a number 
of acts to the Member States.
Under paragraphs 1 and 2, the Secretary-General of the Council, or a Director-
General acting on his or her behalf, notifies addressees of the following acts:
–  non-legislative acts in the form of directives not addressed to all Member 
States and decisions which specify to whom they are addressed;
– recommendations;
–  decisons referred to in Articles 25 TEU.
Decisions referred to in Article 25 TEU and recommendations are notified 
only if not published in the Official Journal. However, directives and decisions 
containing a specific addressee are always notified to their addressees and take 
effect upon such notification. Where those acts are published in accordance 
with Article 17(2)(b) CRP, publication does not render them applicable to their 
addressees. Under third subparagraph of Article 297(2) TFEU, their taking effect 
is conditional upon notification. Publication is thus for information purposes 
only.
Under the language rules (see Chapter II, point 7), documents which an institution 
sends to a Member State or to a person subject to its jurisdiction are drafted in 
a language of that State.
Under Article 18(3) CRP, the Secretary-General or a Director-General acting on his 
or her behalf, sends certified copies of the following acts to the Governments of 
the Member States and to the Commission:
–  directives and decisions referred to in the third subparagraph of Article 
297(2) TFEU (addressed to specific addressee);
–  Council recommendations.
For all atypical acts, the practice is to inform the Member States and the 
Commission.
Pursuant to the right granted to him or her to delegate his or her powers, 
the Secretary-General, by Decision No 351/84 of 11 April 1984, authorised the 
Directors-General or, if prevented from attending to their duties, the Directors 
in order of seniority in the Directorate-General concerned, to sign on his or her 
behalf the notifications and communications of Council acts provided for in 
Article 18 CRP in accordance with the spheres of competence of the respective 
Directorates-General.
70  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

CHAPTER V – OTHER PROVISIONS
1. SECURITY (ARTICLE 24 CRP)
Article 24 CRP provides that the rules on security are to be adopted by the 
Council acting by a qualified majority. On the basis of that provision and of 
Article 240 TFEU (ex Article 207(3) TEC), the Council adopted security rules for 
protecting EU classified information86 which lay down the basic principles and 
minimum standards of security for protecting the European Union’s classified 
information. Decision 40/2015 of the Secretary-General of the Council implements 
those security rules in the GSC.
2. DEPOSITARY OF AGREEMENTS (ARTICLE 25 CPR)
As permitted by Articles 77 and 78 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 
the Secretary General of the Council may be designated as the depositary of 
agreements concluded by the Union or the European Atomic Energy Community 
(Euratom) and one or more States or international organisations.
Acts of ratification, acceptance or approval of those agreements are deposited 
at the address of the Council (first paragraph of Article 25 CRP). In such instances 
the Secretary-General also ensures that the dates of entry into force of such 
agreements are published in the Official Journal (second paragraph of Article 25 
CRP).
The duties of a depositary of international agreements are laid down both by 
general texts (e.g. United Nations Charter and Vienna Convention on the Law of 
Treaties) and by the texts of specific agreements designating depositaries. The 
latter are either one of the Member States parties to the agreement concerned or 
the Secretary-General of an international organisation party to the agreement or 
under the aegis of which the agreement was signed and concluded.
Within the Council General Secretariat, the duties of the depositary of agreements 
are performed mainly by the Agreements Office set up on 15 June 1978, which 
forms part of DGF 2A. The duties are carried out are fourfold87:
–  that of depositary strictly speaking, i.e. involving the production of the texts 
of acts to be concluded and certified copies and their forwarding to the 
parties concerned; the centralisation of all information concerning acts which 
have been signed (ratifications, notifications, acts of accession, etc.) and their 
forwarding to the parties concerned; and registration of all such information;
86  Council Decision 2013/488/EU of 23 September 2013 on the security rules for 
protecting EU classified information (OJ L 274, 15.10.2013, p. 1).
87 
Some of the depositary’s duties are performed by other departments of the General 
Secretariat.
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   71

–  duties connected with protocol (in particular at the time of signing);
–  linguistic editing of the versions of agreements in non-Community languages;
–  printing of the texts.
3. REPRESENTATION OF THE COUNCIL BEFORE THE EUROPEAN 
     PARLIAMENT (ARTICLE 26 CRP)
The first sentence of Article 26(1) CRP provides for the Council to be represented 
by the Presidency before the European Parliament or, with the Presidency’s 
agreement, by a member of the pre-established group of three Member States 
referred to in Article 1(4) CRP, by the following Presidency or by the Secretary-
General of the Council. However, if the Presidency considers it desirable, it may 
also instruct senior officials of the General Secretariat to represent the Council 
before the European Parliament committees. The instructions do not need to be 
formal; a clear and precise statement of the Presidency’s intention is sufficient.
With respect to the Foreign Affairs Council, representation before the European 
Parliament or its committees is the task of the High Representative unless he or she 
asks to be replaced by the member of that Council representing the Member State 
holding the Council Presidency. Here too, if the High Representative considers it 
desirable, he or she may also instruct senior officials of the European External 
Action Service, or, where appropriate, of the General Secretariat to represent the 
Foreign Affairs Council before the European Parliament committees. 
The Secretary-General has issued instructions within the General Secretariat for 
implementation of this provision. When representing the Council, an official of 
the General Secretariat must therefore avoid entering into any commitment 
whatsoever on behalf of the Presidency or the Council unless he or she has clear 
and explicit instructions to that effect.
In order to comply with Article 26 CRP, the Council must therefore in principle 
be represented by the Secretary-General; otherwise the Council is represented 
before committees only by an official so designated by the Secretary-General 
(a Director-General or, exceptional y, a Director). If the Presidency requests an 
official directly, the latter informs the Secretary-General as soon as possible 
through his or her immediate superior in order to obtain the Secretary-General’s 
authorisation.
The Interinstitutional Relations Directorate must be informed beforehand of any 
appearance before the Parliament in order to ensure the optimum coordination 
and to enable the appearance to be prepared.
72  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE  |  EN  |  March 2016

When a temporary Committee of Inquiry is set up by the European Parliament 
under Article 226 TFEU, the Council may designate an official of the General 
Secretariat to appear before it on its behalf (Article 3(3) of the Decision of the 
European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 19 April 1995 on the 
detailed provisions governing the exercise of the European Parliament`s right of 
inquiry88). The official speaks only as instructed by the Council89.
4.  CORRESPONDENCE (ARTICLE 28 CRP)
Article 28 CRP provides that correspondence to the Council is to be sent to the 
President at the Council’s address. Correspondence addressed to the Presidency 
of the Council must be forwarded to all members of the Council.
The Council’s address is:
Council of the European Union
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175
1048 Bruxel es/Brussel
BELGIQUE/BELGIË
The Council’s internet address is:
www.consilium.europa.eu
E-mail: [email address]
88 
OJ L 113, 19.5.1995, p. 1. (95/167/CE, Euratom, CECA).
89  See for example the designation of an official of the General Secretariat in 
September 1996 for the temporary Committee of Inquiry into BSE (‘mad cow 
disease’).
March 2016  |  EN  |  COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE   73


PART 2  
RULES OF PROCEDURE 
OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL
March 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  75


RULES OF PROCEDURE 
OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL
Article 1
Notice and venue of meetings
1. The European Council shall meet twice every six months, convened by its 
President90.
  At the latest one year before the beginning of a six-month period, in close 
cooperation with the Member State which will hold the Presidency during 
that six-month period, the President of the European Council shall make 
known the dates which he or she envisages for the meetings of the European 
Council during that six-month period.
  When the situation so requires, the President shall convene a special meeting 
of the European Council91.
2. The European Council shall meet in Brussels.
  In exceptional circumstances, the President of the European Council, with the 
agreement of the General Affairs Council or the Committee of Permanent 
Representatives, acting unanimously, may decide that a meeting of the 
European Council will be held elsewhere.
Article 2
Preparation for and fol ow-up to the proceedings of the European Council
1. The President of the European Council shall ensure the preparation and 
continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the 
President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General 
Affairs Council92.
2.  The General Affairs Council shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings 
of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council 
and the Commission93.
90 
This subparagraph reproduces the first sentence of Article 15(3) of the Treaty on 
European Union (hereinafter referred to as the ‘TEU’).
91 
This subparagraph reproduces the final sentence of Article 15(3) of the TEU.
92 
This paragraph reproduces Article 15(6)(b) of the TEU.
93 
This paragraph reproduces the second sentence of the second subparagraph of 
Article 16(6) of the TEU.
March 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  77

3. The President shall establish close cooperation and coordination with the 
Presidency of the Council and the President of the Commission, particularly by 
means of regular meetings.
4. In the event of an impediment because of il ness, in the event of his or her 
death or if his or her term of office is ended in accordance with Article 15(5) 
of the Treaty on European Union, the President of the European Council shall 
be replaced, where necessary until the election of his or her successor, by the 
member of the European Council representing the Member State holding the 
six-monthly Presidency of the Council.
Article 3
Agenda and preparation
1. In order to ensure the preparation provided for in Article 2(2), at least four 
weeks before each ordinary meeting of the European Council as referred to 
in Article 1(1), the President of the European Council, in close cooperation 
with the member of the European Council representing the Member State 
holding the six-monthly Presidency of the Council and with the President of 
the Commission, shall submit an annotated draft agenda to the General Affairs 
Council.
  Contributions to the proceedings of the European Council by other Council 
configurations shall be forwarded to the General Affairs Council at the latest 
two weeks before the meeting of the European Council.
  The President of the European Council, in close cooperation as referred to in 
the first subparagraph, shall prepare draft guidelines for the European Council 
conclusions and, as appropriate, draft conclusions and draft decisions of the 
European Council, which shall be discussed in the General Affairs Council.
  A final meeting of the General Affairs Council shall be held within the five 
days preceding the meeting of the European Council. In the light of that final 
discussion, the President of the European Council shall draw up the provisional 
agenda.
2.  Except for imperative and unforeseeable reasons linked, for example, to current 
international events, no other configuration of the Council or preparatory 
body may, between the session of the General Affairs Council at the end of 
which the provisional agenda for the European Council is drawn up and the 
European Council meeting, discuss any subject submitted to the European 
Council.
3.  The European Council shall adopt its agenda at the beginning of its meeting.
  As a rule, issues entered on the agenda should have been examined 
beforehand, in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
Article 4
Composition of the European Council, delegations and 
the conduct of proceedings
1.  Each ordinary meeting of the European Council shall run for a maximum of 
two days, unless the European Council or the General Affairs Council, on the 
initiative of the President of the European Council, decides otherwise.
78  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  |  EN  |  March 2016

  The member of the European Council representing the Member State 
holding the Presidency of the Council shall report to the European Council, in 
consultation with its President, on the work of the Council.
2.  The President of the European Parliament may be invited to be heard by the 
European Council94. Such exchange of views shall be held at the start of the 
meeting of the European Council, unless the European Council unanimously 
decides otherwise.
  Meetings in the margins of the European Council with representatives of third 
States or international organisations or other personalities may be held in 
exceptional circumstances only, and with the prior agreement of the European 
Council, acting unanimously, on the initiative of the President of the European 
Council.
3.  Meetings of the European Council shall not be public.
4. The European Council shall consist of the Heads of State or Government 
of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the 
Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and 
Security Policy shall take part in its work95.
  When the agenda so requires, the members of the European Council may 
decide each to be assisted by a minister and, in the case of the President of the 
Commission, by a member of the Commission96.
  The total size of the delegations authorised to have access to the building where 
the meeting of the European Council is held shall be limited to 20 persons for each 
Member State and for the Commission, and to five for the High Representative of 
the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. That number shall not include 
technical personnel assigned to specific security or logistic support tasks. The 
names and functions of the members of the delegations shall be notified in 
advance to the General Secretariat of the Council.
  The President shall be responsible for the application of these Rules of 
Procedure and for ensuring that discussions are conducted smoothly.
Article 5
Representation before the European Parliament
The European Council shall be represented before the European Parliament by 
the President of the European Council.
The President of the European Council shall present a report to the European 
Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council97.
The member of the European Council representing the Member State holding 
the Presidency of the Council shall present to the European Parliament the 
priorities of its Presidency and the results achieved during the six-month period.
94 
This subparagraph reproduces Article 235(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the 
European Union (hereinafter referred to as the ‘TFEU’).
95 
This subparagraph reproduces Article 15(2) of the TEU.
96 
This subparagraph reproduces the second sentence of Article 15(3) of the TEU.
97 
This subparagraph reproduces Article 15(6)(d) of the TEU.
March 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  79

Article 6
Adoption of positions, decisions and quorum
1.  Except where the Treaties provide otherwise, decisions of the European Coun-
cil shall be taken by consensus98.
2.  In those cases where, in accordance with the Treaties, the European Council 
adopts a decision and holds a vote, that vote shall take place on the initiative 
of its President.
  The President shal , furthermore, be required to open a voting procedure on 
the initiative of a member of the European Council, provided that a majority of 
the members of the European Council so decides.
3.  The presence of two thirds of the members of the European Council is required 
to enable the European Council to vote. When the vote is taken, the President 
shall check that there is a quorum. The President of the European Council and 
the President of the Commission shall not be included in the calculation of the 
quorum.
4.  Where a vote is taken, any member of the European Council may also act on 
behalf of not more than one other member99.
  Where the European Council decides by vote, its President and the President 
of the Commission shall not take part in the vote100.
5.  Procedural decisions adopted by the European Council by virtue of these Rules 
of Procedure shall be adopted by a simple majority101. 
Article 7
Written procedure
Decisions of the European Council on an urgent matter may be adopted by 
a written vote where the President of the European Council proposes to use 
that procedure. Written votes may be used where all members of the European 
Council having the right to vote agree to that procedure.
A summary of acts adopted by the written procedure shall be drawn up 
periodical y by the General Secretariat of the Council.
Article 8
Minutes
Minutes of each meeting shall be drawn up; a draft of those minutes shall be 
prepared by the General Secretariat of the Council within 15 days. The draft shall 
be submitted to the European Council for approval, and then signed by the 
Secretary-General of the Council.
98 
This paragraph reproduces Article 15(4) of the TEU.
99 
This subparagraph reproduces the first subparagraph of Article 235(1) of the TFEU.
100  This subparagraph reproduces the second sentence of the second subparagraph of 
Article 235(1) of the TFEU.
101  This subparagraph reproduces the rule set out in Article 235(3) of the TFEU.
80  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  |  EN  |  March 2016

The minutes shall contain:
–  a reference to the documents submitted to the European Council,
–  a reference to the conclusions approved,
–  the decisions taken,
–  the statements made by the European Council and those whose entry has 
been requested by a member of the European Council.
Article 9
Deliberations and decisions on the basis of documents and drafts drawn up 
in the languages provided for by the language rules in force
1.   Except as otherwise decided unanimously by the European Council on grounds 
of urgency, the European Council shall deliberate and take decisions only on 
the basis of documents and drafts drawn up in the languages specified in the 
rules in force governing languages.
2.  Any member of the European Council may oppose discussion where the texts 
of any proposed amendments are not drawn up in such of the languages 
referred to in paragraph 1 as he or she may specify.
Article 10
Making public votes, explanations of votes and minutes 
and access to documents
1.  In cases where, in accordance with the Treaties, the European Council adopts 
a decision, the European Council may decide, in accordance with the voting 
arrangement applicable for the adoption of that decision, to make public the 
results of votes, as well as the statements in its minutes and the items in those 
minutes relating to the adoption of that decision.
  Where the result of a vote is made public, the explanations of the vote 
provided when the vote was taken shall also be made public at the request 
of the member of the European Council concerned, with due regard for these 
Rules of Procedure, legal certainty and the interests of the European Council.
2. The provisions concerning public access to Council documents set out in 
Annex II to the Rules of Procedure of the Council shall apply mutatis mutandis 
to European Council documents.
Article 11
Professional secrecy and production of documents in legal proceedings
Without prejudice to the provisions on public access to documents, the 
deliberations of the European Council shall be covered by the obligation of 
professional secrecy, except insofar as the European Council decides otherwise.
The European Council may authorise the production for use in legal proceedings 
of a copy of or an extract from European Council documents which have not 
already been released to the public in accordance with Article 10.
March 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  81

Article 12
Decisions of the European Council
1.  Decisions adopted by the European Council shall be signed by its President 
and by the Secretary-General of the Council. Where they do not specify to 
whom they are addressed, they shall be published in the Official Journal of the 
European Unio
n. Where they specify to whom they are addressed, they shall 
be notified to those to whom they are addressed by the Secretary-General of 
the Council.
2. The provisions concerning the form of acts set out in Annex VI to the Rules 
of Procedure of the Council shall apply mutatis mutandis to decisions of the 
European Council.
Article 13
Secretariat, budget and security
1. The European Council and its President shall be assisted by the General 
Secretariat of the Council, under the authority of its Secretary-General.
2.   The Secretary-General of the Council shall attend the meetings of the European 
Council. He or she shall take all the measures necessary for the organisation of 
proceedings.
3. The Secretary-General of the Council shall have full responsibility for 
administering the appropriations entered in Section II – European Council 
and Council – of the budget and shall take all measures necessary to ensure 
that they are properly managed. He or she shall implement the appropriations 
in question in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Regulation 
applicable to the budget of the Union.
4. The Council’s security rules shall apply mutatis mutandis to the European 
Council.
Article 14
Correspondence addressed to the European Council
Correspondence to the European Council shall be sent to its President at the 
following address:
European Council
rue de la Loi 175
B-1048 Brussels
82  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL  |  EN  |  March 2016

PART 3 
RULES OF PROCEDURE 
OF THE COUNCIL
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  83


RULES OF PROCEDURE 
OF THE COUNCIL
Article 1
General provisions, notice and venue of meetings
1.  The Council shall meet when convened by its President on his or her own 
initiative or at the request of one of its members or of the Commission102.
2.  Seven months before the beginning of the six-month period concerned, for 
each Council configuration, and after appropriate consultations, the Presidency 
shall make known the dates which it envisages for meetings that the Council 
will have to hold in order to complete its legislative work or take operational 
decisions. Those dates shall be set out in a single document applying to all 
Council configurations.
3.  The Council shall have its seat in Brussels. During the months of April, June and 
October, the Council shall hold its meetings in Luxembourg103.
  In exceptional circumstances and for duly substantiated reasons, the Council 
or the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the governments of the 
Member States (hereinafter referred to as Coreper), acting unanimously, may 
decide that a Council meeting will be held elsewhere.
4.104 The Presidency of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs 
configuration, shall be held by pre-established groups of three Member States 
for a period of 18 months. The groups shall be made up on a basis of equal 
rotation among the Member States, taking into account their diversity and 
geographical balance within the Union.
  Each member of the group shall in turn chair for a six-month period all 
configurations of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs 
configuration. The other members of the group shall assist the Chair in all its 
responsibilities on the basis of a common programme. The members of the 
team may decide alternative arrangements among themselves.
102  This paragraph reproduces Article 237 of the Treaty on the functioning of the 
European Union (hereinafter referred to as the ‘TFEU’).
103  This paragraph reproduces point (b) of the sole Article of the Protocol on the 
location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies, offices, agencies and 
departments of the European Union.
104  This paragraph reproduces Article 1 of the European Council Decision of 1 December 
2009 on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council (OJ L 315, 2.12.2009, p. 50).
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  85

5.  The decisions adopted by the Council or Coreper pursuant to these Rules of 
Procedure shall be adopted by a simple majority, unless these Rules provide 
for other voting arrangements.
  Unless otherwise specified, references in these Rules of Procedure to the 
Presidency or the President shall apply to any person chairing one of the 
Council configurations or, as appropriate, one of its preparatory bodies.
Article 2
Configurations of the Council, role of the General Affairs configuration and 
the Foreign Affairs configuration and programming
1.  The Council shall meet in different configurations according to the subject-
matter dealt with. The list of Council configurations, other than the General 
Affairs and Foreign Affairs configurations, shall be adopted by the European 
Council acting by a qualified majority105. The list of Council configurations is 
set out in Annex I.
2.  The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different 
Council configurations. It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings 
of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council 
and the Commission106. It shall be responsible for overall coordination of 
policies, institutional and administrative questions, horizontal dossiers which 
affect several of the European Union’s policies, such as the multiannual 
financial framework and enlargement, and any dossier entrusted to it by the 
European Council, having regard to operating rules for the Economic and 
Monetary Union.
3. The arrangements for the preparation of European Council meetings are 
provided for in Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Council, as 
follows:
  (a)  In order to ensure the preparation provided for in Article 2(2) of the Rules 
of Procedure of the European Council, at least four weeks before each 
ordinary meeting of the European Council as referred to in Article 1(1) of the 
Rules of Procedure of the European Council, the President of the European 
Council, in close cooperation with the member of the European Council 
representing the Member State holding the six-monthly Presidency of 
the Council and with the President of the Commission, shall submit an 
annotated draft agenda to the General Affairs Council.
Contributions to the proceedings of the European Council by other Council 
configurations shall be forwarded to the General Affairs Council at the latest 
two weeks before the meeting of the European Council.
The President of the European Council, in close cooperation as referred to 
in the first subparagraph, shall prepare draft guidelines for the European 
Council conclusions and, as appropriate, draft conclusions and draft 
105  These two sentences are taken, with some adjustments, from the first subparagraph 
of Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union (hereinafter referred to as the ‘TEU’) 
and point (a) of Article 236 of the TFEU.
106  These two sentences reproduce the second subparagraph of Article 16(6) of the 
TEU.
86  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

decisions of the European Council, which shall be discussed in the General 
Affairs Council.
A final meeting of the General Affairs Council shall be held within the five 
days preceding the meeting of the European Council. In the light of that 
final discussion, the President of the European Council shall draw up the 
provisional agenda.
  (b)  Except for imperative and unforeseeable reasons linked, for example, 
to current international events, no other configuration of the Council or 
preparatory body may, between the session of the General Affairs Council at 
the end of which the provisional agenda for the European Council is drawn 
up and the European Council meeting, discuss any subject submitted to 
the European Council.
  (c)  The European Council shall adopt its agenda at the beginning of its 
meeting.
  As a rule, issues entered on the agenda should have been examined 
beforehand, in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph.
4. The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency and continuity in the 
work of the different Council configurations in the framework of multiannual 
programmes in cooperation with the Commission in accordance with 
paragraph 6107.
5.  The Foreign Affairs Council shall elaborate the Union’s external action on the 
basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensure 
that the Union’s action is consistent108. It shall be responsible for the whole of 
the European Union’s external action, namely common foreign and security 
policy, common security and defence policy, common commercial policy, 
development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
  The Foreign Affairs Council shall be chaired by the High Representative of the 
Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who may, where necessary, ask to 
be replaced by the member of that configuration representing the Member 
State holding the six-monthly presidency of the Council109.
6.  Every 18 months, the pre-established group of three Member States holding 
the Presidency of the Council for that period, in accordance with Article 1(4), 
shall prepare a draft programme of Council activities for that period. The draft 
shall be prepared with the President of the Foreign Affairs Council with regard 
to that configuration’s activities during that period. The draft programme shall 
be prepared in close cooperation with the Commission and the President of 
the European Council, and after appropriate consultations.    
107  This paragraph reproduces the first sentence of Article 3 of the European Council 
Decision of 1 December 2009 on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council.
108  This sentence reproduces the third subparagraph of Article 16(6) of the TEU.
109  See statement (a) set out below:
 
(a) Re Article 2(5), second subparagraph:
 
‘When the Foreign Affairs Council is convened to discuss common commercial 
policy issues, its President will ask to be replaced by the six-monthly Presidency as 
provided for in Article 2(5), second subparagraph.’
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  87

  It shall be presented in a single document no later than one month before 
the relevant period, with a view to its endorsement by the General Affairs 
Council110.
7.  The Presidency which is to hold office in the relevant period shall establish, for 
each Council configuration, and after appropriate consultations, draft agendas 
for Council meetings scheduled for the next six-month period, showing the 
legislative work and operational decisions envisaged. These draft agendas shall 
be established at the latest one week before the beginning of the relevant six-
month period, on the basis of the Council’s 18-month programme and after 
consulting the Commission. They shall be set out in a single document applying 
to all Council configurations. Where necessary, extra Council meetings may be 
provided for, in addition to those previously planned.
  If during a six-month period any of the meetings planned during that period 
proves to be no longer warranted, the Presidency shall not convene it.
Article 3111 
Agenda
1.  Taking into account the Council’s 18-month programme, the President shall 
draw up the provisional agenda for each meeting. The agenda shall be sent 
to the other members of the Council and to the Commission at least 14 days 
before the beginning of the meeting. It shall be forwarded to Member States’ 
national Parliaments at the same time.
2.  The provisional agenda shall contain the items in respect of which a request 
for inclusion on the agenda, together with any documents relating thereto, 
has been received by the General Secretariat from a member of the Council or 
from the Commission at least 16 days before the beginning of that meeting. 
110  See statement (b) set out below:
(b) Re Article 2(6):
‘The 18-month programme will include a general introductory section setting 
the programme in the context of the European Union’s longer term strategic 
orientations. On this section, the three Presidencies in charge of preparing the draft 
18-month programme will consult with the three subsequent Presidencies, as part 
of the “appropriate consultations” referred to in the third sentence of paragraph 
6. The draft 18-month programme should also have regard, inter alia, to relevant 
points arising from the dialogue on the political priorities for the year, conducted at 
the Commission’s initiative.’
111  See statements (c) and (d) set out below:
(c) Re Article 3(1) and (2):
‘The President will endeavour to ensure that, in principle, the provisional agenda for 
each meeting of the Council dealing with implementation of the Title of the TFEU 
relating to the area of freedom, security and justice and any documents relating 
to the items involved reach members of the Council at least 21 days before the 
beginning of the meeting.’
(d) Re Articles 1 and 3:
‘Without prejudice to Article 30(2) of the TEU, which specifies that an extraordinary 
Council meeting may be convened at very short notice in cases requiring a rapid 
decision, the Council is aware of the need for matters relating to the common 
foreign and security policy to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. The arrangements 
in Article 3 shall not prevent this need from being met.’
88  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

The provisional agenda shall also indicate by way of an asterisk the items 
on which the Presidency, a member of the Council or the Commission may 
request a vote. Such an indication shall be made once all the procedural 
requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with.
3. In cases in which the eight-week period provided for in the Protocol on the 
role of national Parliaments in the European Union and the Protocol on the 
application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality is applicable, 
items relating to the adoption of a legislative act or a position at first reading 
in the ordinary legislative procedure shall not be placed on the provisional 
agenda for a decision until that eight-week period has elapsed.
  The Council may derogate from the eight-week period referred to in the 
first subparagraph where the entry of an item is subject to the exception 
on grounds of urgency provided for in Article 4 of the Protocol on the role 
of national Parliaments in the European Union. The Council shall decide in 
accordance with the voting rule applicable for the adoption of the act or 
position concerned.
  Save in urgent cases for which due reasons have been given, a ten-day period 
shall elapse between the placing of a draft legislative act on the provisional 
agenda for the Council and the adoption of a position112.
4.   Only items in respect of which the documents have been sent to the members 
of the Council and to the Commission at the latest by the date on which the 
provisional agenda is sent may be placed on that agenda.
5.  The General Secretariat shall transmit to the members of the Council and to the 
Commission requests for the inclusion of items in the agenda and documents 
in respect of which the time limits specified above were not respected.
  If, by the end of the week preceding the week prior to a Council meeting, 
Coreper has not completed its examination of draft legislative acts, the 
Presidency shal , unless considerations of urgency require otherwise and 
without prejudice to paragraph 3, remove them from the provisional agenda.
6.  The provisional agenda shall be divided into two parts, dealing respectively with 
deliberations on legislative acts and non-legislative activities. The first part shal  
be entitled ‘Legislative deliberations’ and the second ‘Non-legislative activities’.
  The items appearing in each part of the provisional agenda shall be divided 
into A items and B items. Items for which approval by the Council is possible 
without discussion shall be entered as A items, but this does not exclude the 
possibility of any member of the Council or of the Commission expressing 
an opinion at the time of the approval of these items and having statements 
included in the minutes.
7.   The agenda shall be adopted by the Council at the beginning of each meeting. 
The inclusion in the agenda of an item other than those appearing on the 
provisional agenda shall require unanimity in the Council. Items entered in this 
way may be put to the vote if all the procedural requirements provided for by 
the Treaties have been complied with.
112  This subparagraph reproduces the last sentence of Article 4 of the Protocol on the 
role of national Parliaments in the European Union.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  89

8.  However, an ‘A’ item shall be withdrawn from the agenda, unless the Council 
decides otherwise, if a position on an ‘A’ item might lead to further discussion 
thereof or if a member of the Council or the Commission so requests.
9. Any request for the inclusion of an ‘Any other business’ item shall be 
accompanied by an explanatory document.
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.
Article 5
Meetings
1.  The Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft 
legislative act113. In other cases, meetings of the Council shall not be public 
except in the cases referred to in Article 8.
2.  The Commission shall be invited to take part in meetings of the Council. The 
same applies to the European Central Bank in cases where it exercises its 
right of initiative. The Council may, however, decide to deliberate without the 
presence of the Commission or of the European Central Bank.
3.  The members of the Council and of the Commission may be accompanied 
by officials who assist them. The names and functions of those officials shall 
be notified in advance to the General Secretariat. The maximum number 
of persons per delegation in the Council meeting room at the same time, 
including members of the Council, may be laid down by the Council.
4.  Admission to meetings of the Council shall be subject to the production of 
a pass delivered by the General Secretariat.
Article 6
Professional secrecy and production of documents in legal proceedings
1.  Without prejudice to Articles 7, 8 and 9 and to provisions on public access to 
documents, the deliberations of the Council shall be covered by the obligation 
of professional secrecy, except in so far as the Council decides otherwise.
2. The Council or Coreper may authorise the production for use in legal 
proceedings of a copy of or an extract from Council documents which have 
not already been released to the public in accordance with the provisions on 
public access to documents.
113  This sentence reproduces the first sentence of Article 16(8) of the TEU.
90  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

Article 7
Legislative procedure and openness
1.  The Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft 
legislative act. To that end, its agenda shall include a part entitled ‘Legislative 
deliberations’.
2.  Documents submitted to the Council which are listed under an item on the 
‘Legislative deliberations’ part of its agenda shall be made public, and likewise 
those sections of the Council minutes which relate to that part of the agenda.
3.  The opening to the public of Council meetings relating to the ‘Legislative 
deliberations’ part of its agenda shall be made through public transmission 
by audiovisual means, notably in an overflow room and through broadcasting 
in all official languages of the institutions of the European Union using video-
streaming. A recorded version shall remain available for at least one month on 
the Council’s Internet site. The outcome of voting shall be indicated by visual 
means.
  The General Secretariat shall take steps to inform the public in advance of the 
dates and approximate time on which such audiovisual transmissions will take 
place and shall take all practical measures to ensure the proper implementation 
of this Article.
4. The results of votes and explanations of votes by members of the Council 
or their representatives on the Conciliation Committee provided for under 
the ordinary legislative procedure, as well as the statements in the Council 
minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the Conciliation Committee 
meeting shall be made public.
5.  Where legislative proposals or initiatives are submitted to it the Council shall 
refrain from adopting acts which are not provided for by the Treaties, such as 
resolutions, conclusions or declarations other than those accompanying the 
adoption of the act and intended for entry in the Council minutes.
Article 8
Other cases of Council deliberations open to the public and public debates
1.  Where a non-legislative proposal is submitted to the Council relating to the 
adoption of rules which are legal y binding in or for the Member States, by means 
of regulations, directives or decisions, on the basis of the relevant provisions 
of the Treaties, with the exception of internal measures, administrative or 
budgetary acts, acts concerning interinstitutional or international relations or 
non-binding acts (such as conclusions, recommendations or resolutions), the 
Council’s first deliberation on important new proposals shall be open to the 
public. The Presidency shall identify which new proposals are important and 
the Council or Coreper may decide otherwise, whenever appropriate.
  The Presidency may decide, on a case-by-case basis, that the subsequent 
Council deliberations on one of the proposals referred to in the first 
subparagraph shall be open to the public, unless the Council or Coreper 
decides otherwise.
2. On a decision taken by the Council or by Coreper, acting by a qualified 
majority, the Council shall hold public debates on important issues affecting 
the interests of the European Union and its citizens.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  91

  It shall be for the Presidency, any member of the Council, or the Commission 
to propose issues or specific subjects for such debates, taking into account the 
importance of the matter and its interest to citizens.
3.  The General Affairs Council shall hold a public policy debate on the Council’s 
18-month programme. Policy debates in other Council configurations on their 
priorities shall also be held in public. The Commission’s presentation of its 
five-year programme, of its annual work programme and of its annual policy 
strategy, as well as the ensuing debate in the Council, shall be public.
4.  As from the sending of the provisional agenda pursuant to Article 3:
  (a)  those items on the agenda of the Council which are open to the public 
in accordance with paragraph 1 shall be marked with the words ‘public 
deliberation’;
  (b)  those items on the agenda of the Council which are open to the public 
in accordance with paragraphs 2 and 3 shall be marked with the words 
‘public debate’.
  The opening to the public of Council deliberations and public debates in 
accordance with this Article shall be made through public transmission as 
described in Article 7(3).
Article 9
Making votes, explanations of votes and minutes public in other cases
1.  Where the Council adopts non-legislative acts referred to in Article 8(1), the 
results of votes and explanations of votes by Council members, as well as the 
statements in the Council minutes and the items in those minutes relating to 
the adoption of such acts, shall be made public.
2.  Moreover, the results of votes shall be made public:
  (a)  when the Council acts pursuant to Title V of the TEU, by a unanimous 
Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one of their members;
  (b)  in other cases, by Council or Coreper decision taken at the request of one 
of their members.
  When the result of a vote in the Council is made public in accordance with 
points (a) and (b) of the first subparagraph, the explanations of votes made 
when the vote was taken shall also be made public at the request of the 
Council members concerned, with due regard for these Rules of Procedure, 
legal certainty and the interests of the Council.
  Statements entered in the Council minutes and items in those minutes 
relating to the adoption of the acts referred to in points (a) and (b) of the first 
subparagraph shall be made public by Council or Coreper decision taken at 
the request of one of their members.
3. Except in cases where Council deliberations are open to the public in 
accordance with Articles 7 and 8, votes shall not be made public in the case 
of discussions leading to indicative votes or the adoption of preparatory acts.
92  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

Article 10
Public access to Council documents
The specific provisions regarding public access to Council documents are set out 
in Annex II.
Article 11
Voting arrangements and quorum
1.  The Council shall vote on the initiative of its President.
  The President shal , furthermore, be required to open a voting procedure on 
the initiative of a member of the Council or of the Commission, provided that 
a majority of the Council’s members so decides.
2.  The members of the Council shall vote in the order of the Member States laid 
down in the list of successive presidencies, beginning with the member who, 
according to that order, follows the member holding the office of President.
3.  Where a vote is taken, any member of the Council may also act on behalf of not 
more than one other member114.
4.  The presence of a majority of the members of the Council who are, under the 
Treaties, entitled to vote is required to enable the Council to vote. When the 
vote is taken, the President, assisted by the General Secretariat, shall check that 
there is a quorum.
5.  Where a decision is to be adopted by the Council acting by qualified majority, 
65 % of the population of the Union or, where not all Member States participate 
in voting, of the population of the participating Member States, and the 
minimum number of Council members representing more than 35 % 
of the population of the participating Member States shall be calculated in 
accordance with the population figures set out in Annex II . These figures shall 
also apply between 1 November 2014 and 31 March 2017 where, in accordance 
with Article 3(2) of Protocol No 36 on transitional measures, annexed to the 
Treaty on European Union, to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European 
Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, 
a member of the Council requests that an act be adopted in accordance with 
the qualified majority as defined in paragraph 3 of that Article and a member 
of the Council requests that it be verified that the Member States comprising 
the qualified majority represent at least 62 % of the total population of the 
Union.
6.  With effect from 1 January each year, the Council shal , in accordance with the 
data available to the Statistical Office of the European Union on 30 September 
of the preceding year, amend the figures set out in Annex II . That Decision 
shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
114  This paragraph reproduces Article 239 of the TFEU.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  93

Article 12
Ordinary written procedure and silence procedure
1.  Acts of the Council on an urgent matter may be adopted by a written vote 
where the Council or Coreper unanimously decides to use that procedure. 
In special circumstances, the President may also propose the use of that 
procedure; in such a case, written votes may be used where all members of 
the Council agree to that procedure.
  Agreement by the Commission to the use of the written procedure shall be 
required where the written vote is on a matter which the Commission has 
brought before the Council.
  A summary of acts adopted by the written procedure shall be drawn up every 
month by the General Secretariat. That summary shall contain any statements 
to be entered in the Council minutes. The sections of the summary which 
relate to adoption of legislative acts shall be made public.
2.  On the initiative of the Presidency, the Council may act by means of a simplified 
written procedure called ‘silence procedure’:
  (a)  for the purpose of adopting the text of a reply to a written question or, as 
appropriate, to an oral question submitted to the Council by a Member 
of the European Parliament, after the draft reply has been examined by 
Coreper115;
  (b)  for the purpose of appointing Members, and their alternates, of the 
Economic and Social Committee and of the Committee of the Regions, 
after the draft decision has been examined by Coreper;
  (c)  for the purpose of deciding to consult other institutions, bodies, offices or 
agencies wherever such consultation is required by the Treaties;
  (d)  for the purpose of implementing the common foreign and security policy 
through the ‘COREU’ network (‘COREU silence procedure’)116.
  In that case, the relevant text shall be deemed to be adopted at the end of the 
period laid down by the Presidency depending on the urgency of the matter, 
except where a member of the Council objects.
3.  The General Secretariat shall establish that the written procedures have been 
completed.
115  See statement (e) set out below:
(e) Re Article 12(2)(a), (b) and (c):
‘In accordance with the Council’s regular practice, the time limit fixed will normally 
be three working days.’
116  See statement (f ) set out below:
(f ) Re Article 12(2)(d):
‘The Council would point out that the COREU network must be used in accordance 
with the Council conclusions of 12 June 1995 (doc. 7896/95) concerning the 
Council’s working methods.’
94  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

Article 13
Minutes
1.  Minutes of each meeting shall be drawn up and, when approved, shall be 
signed by the Secretary-General. He or she may delegate his or her power to 
sign to Directors-General of the General Secretariat.
  The minutes shall as a general rule contain in respect of each item on the 
agenda:
  – 
a reference to the documents submitted to the Council,
  – 
the decisions taken or the conclusions reached by the Council,
  – 
 the statements made by the Council and those whose entry has been 
requested by a member of the Council or the Commission.
2.  The draft minutes shall be drawn up by the General Secretariat within 15 days 
and submitted to the Council or to Coreper for approval.
3.  Prior to such approval any member of the Council, or the Commission, may 
request that more details be inserted in the minutes regarding any item on the 
agenda. These requests may be made in Coreper.
4.  The minutes of the ‘Legislative deliberations’ part of meetings of the Council, 
once approved, shall be forwarded directly to national Parliaments, at the 
same time as to Member States’ governments.
Article 14
Deliberations and decisions on the basis of documents and drafts drawn up 
in the languages provided for by the language rules in force
1.  Except as otherwise decided unanimously by the Council on grounds of 
urgency, the Council shall deliberate and take decisions only on the basis of 
documents and drafts drawn up in the languages specified in the rules in 
force governing languages.
2. Any member of the Council may oppose discussion if the texts of any 
proposed amendments are not drawn up in such of the languages referred to 
in paragraph 1 as he or she may specify.
Article 15
Signing of acts
The text of the acts adopted by the Council and that of the acts adopted by the 
European Parliament and the Council in accordance with the ordinary legislative 
procedure shall be signed by the President in office at the time of their adoption 
and by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General may delegate his or her 
power to sign to Directors-General of the General Secretariat.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  95

Article 16117 
Absence of the possibility to participate in the vote
For the purposes of application of these Rules of Procedure, due account will be 
taken, in accordance with Annex IV, of cases in which, under the Treaties, one or 
more members of the Council may not participate in the vote.
Article 17
Publication of acts in the Official Journal
1.  The following shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union 
(hereinafter referred to as the ‘Official Journal’) by the Secretary-General:
  (a)  the acts referred to in paragraph 1 and the second subparagraph of 
paragraph 2 of Article 297 of the TFEU;
  (b)  the positions at first reading adopted by the Council in accordance with the 
ordinary legislative procedure, and the reasons underlying those positions;
  (c)  the initiatives presented to the Council in accordance with Article 76 of the 
TFEU for the adoption of a legislative act;
  (d)  international agreements concluded by the Union.
  Reference shall be made in the Official Journal to the entry into force of such 
agreements;
  (e)  international agreements concluded by the Union in matters concerning the 
common foreign and security policy, unless the Council decides otherwise 
on the grounds of Articles 4 and 9 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the 
European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public 
access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents118.
  Reference shall be made in the Official Journal to the entry into force of 
agreements published in the Official Journal.
2. Unless the Council or Coreper decides otherwise, the following shall be 
published in the Official Journal by the Secretary-General:
  (a)  initiatives presented to the Council in accordance with Article 76 of the 
TFEU in cases other than those referred to in paragraph 1(c);
  (b)  directives and decisions referred to in the third subparagraph of 
Article 297(2) of the TFEU, recommendations and opinions, with the 
exception of the decisions referred to in paragraph 3 of this Article.
117  See statement (g) set out below:
(g) Re Article 16 and Annex IV:
‘The Council agrees that the provisions of Article 16 and Annex IV apply to acts 
for the adoption of which some members of the Council are, under the Treaties, 
not entitled to vote. However, application of Article 7 of the TEU is not covered by 
those provisions. In the first application of the provisions on enhanced cooperation, 
the Council will, in the light of experience acquired in other fields, consider any 
adaptations necessary to Article 16 of and Annex IV to these Rules of Procedure.’
118  OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43.
96  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

3.  The Council or Coreper shall decide unanimously, on a case-by-case basis, 
whether there should be publication in the Official Journal by the Secretary-
General of the decisions referred to in Article 25 of the TEU.
4. The Council or Coreper shall decide, on a case-by-case basis and taking 
account of possible publication of the basic act, whether the following should 
be published in the Official Journal by the Secretary-General:
  (a)  the decisions implementing the decisions referred to in Article 25 of the 
TEU;
  (b)  the decisions adopted in accordance with the first and second indents of 
Article 31(2) of the TEU;
  (c)  other Council acts, such as conclusions or resolutions.
5.  Where an agreement concluded between the Union or the European Atomic 
Energy Community and one or more States or international organisations sets 
up a body vested with powers of decision, the Council shall decide, when 
such an agreement is concluded, whether decisions to be taken by that body 
should be published in the Official Journal.
Article 18
Notification of acts
1.   Directives and decisions referred to in the third subparagraph of Article 297(2) 
of the TFEU shall be notified to their addressees by the Secretary-General or 
a Director-General acting on his or her behalf.
2.  When they are not published in the Official Journal, the following acts shall 
be notified to their addressees by the Secretary-General or a Director-General 
acting on his or her behalf:
  (a) recommendations;
  (b) the decisions referred to in Article 25 of the TEU.
3.  The Secretary-General or a Director-General acting on his or her behalf shall 
send to the Governments of the Member States and to the Commission 
certified copies of the Council directives and decisions referred to in the third 
subparagraph of Article 297(2) of the TFEU and of Council recommendations.
Article 19119
Coreper, committees and working parties
1.  Coreper shall be responsible for preparing the work of all the meetings of the 
Council and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the Council. It shall in 
119  These provisions are without prejudice to the role of the Economic and Financial 
Committee as laid down in Article 134 of the TFEU and to existing Council Decisions 
thereon (OJ L 358, 31.12.1998, p. 109 and OJ L 5, 9.1.1999, p. 71).
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  97

any case120 ensure consistency of the European Union’s policies and actions 
and see to it that the following principles and rules are observed:
  (a)  the principles of legality, subsidiarity, proportionality and providing reasons 
for acts;
  (b)  rules establishing the powers of Union institutions, bodies, offices and 
agencies;
  (c) budgetary provisions;
  (d)  rules on procedure, transparency and the quality of drafting.
2.  All items on the agenda for a Council meeting shall be examined in advance 
by Coreper unless the latter decides otherwise. Coreper shall endeavour to 
reach agreement at its level to be submitted to the Council for adoption. It 
shall ensure adequate presentation of the dossiers to the Council and, where 
appropriate, shall present guidelines, options or suggested solutions. In the 
event of an emergency, the Council, acting unanimously, may decide to settle 
the matter without prior examination.
3. Committees or working parties may be set up by, or with the approval of, 
Coreper with a view to carrying out certain preparatory work or studies 
defined in advance.
  The General Secretariat shall update and make public the list of preparatory 
bodies. Only the committees and working parties on this list may meet as 
Council preparatory bodies.
4. Coreper shall be chaired, depending on the items on the agenda, by the 
Permanent Representative or the Deputy Permanent Representative of the 
Member State which holds the Presidency of the General Affairs Council.
  The Political and Security Committee shall be chaired by a representative of 
the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
  The preparatory bodies of the various Council configurations, with the 
exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration, shall be chaired by a delegate 
of the Member State chairing the relevant configuration, unless the Council, 
acting by a qualified majority, decides otherwise. The list referred to in the 
second subparagraph of paragraph 3 shall also identify those preparatory 
bodies for which the Council has made other chairing arrangements, in 
accordance with Article 4 of the European Council Decision on the exercise of 
the Presidency of the Council.
5.  For the preparation of meetings of Council configurations meeting once every 
six months, where held during the first half of this period, the meetings of 
committees other than Coreper and those of working parties held during 
the preceding six months shall be chaired by a delegate of the Member State 
whose turn it is to chair the said Council meetings.
120  See statement (h) set out below:
(h) Re Article 19(1):
‘Coreper will ensure consistency and observance of the principles set out in 
paragraph 1, in particular for matters where substantive preparation is undertaken 
in other fora.’
98  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

6. Except where other chairing arrangements apply, when a dossier will 
essential y be dealt with during a six-month period, a delegate of the Member 
State holding the Presidency during that six-month period may, during the 
preceding six-month period, chair meetings of committees, other than 
Coreper, and working parties when they discuss that dossier. The practical 
implementation of this paragraph shall be the subject of an agreement 
between the two Presidencies concerned.
  In the specific case of the examination of the budget of the Union for a given 
financial year, meetings of Council preparatory bodies, other than Coreper, 
dealing with the preparation of Council agenda items on the examination of 
the budget shall be chaired by a delegate of the Member State which will hold 
the Council Presidency during the second six-month period of the year prior 
to the financial year in question. The same shall apply, with the agreement of 
the other Presidency, to the chairing of Council meetings at the time when the 
said budget items are discussed. The Presidencies concerned will consult on 
the practical arrangements.
7.  In accordance with the relevant provisions referred to below, Coreper may 
adopt the following procedural decisions, provided that the items relating 
thereto have been included on its provisional agenda at least three working 
days before the meeting. Unanimity on the part of Coreper shall be required 
for any derogation from that period121:
  (a)  decision to hold a Council meeting in a place other than Brussels or 
Luxembourg (Article 1(3) ;
  (b)  authorisation to produce a copy of or an extract from a Council document 
for use in legal proceedings (Article 6(2) ;
  (c)  decision to hold a public debate in the Council or not to hold in public 
a given Council deliberation (Article 8(1), (2) and (3) ;
  (d)  decision to make the results of votes and the statements entered in the 
Council minutes public in the cases laid down in Article 9(2);
  (e)  decision to use the written procedure (Article 12(1) ;
  (f)  approval or amendment of Council minutes (Article 13(2) and (3) ;
  (g)  decision to publish or not to publish a text or an act in the Official Journal 
(Article 17(2), (3) and (4) ;
  (h)  decision to consult an institution or body wherever such consultation is not 
required by the Treaties;
  (i)   decision setting or extending a time limit for consultation of an institution 
or body;
  (j)  decision to extend the periods laid down in Article 294(14) of the TFEU;
  (k)  approval of the wording of a letter to be sent to an institution or body.
121  See statement (i) set out below:
(i) Re Article 19(7):
‘If a member of the Council considers that a draft procedural decision submitted to 
Coreper for adoption in accordance with Article 19(7) raises a question of substance, 
the draft decision will be submitted to the Council.’
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  99

Article 20
The Presidency and the smooth conduct of discussions
1. The Presidency shall be responsible for the application of these Rules of 
Procedure and for ensuring that discussions are conducted smoothly. 
In particular, the Presidency shall ensure that the provisions of Annex V 
concerning the Council’s working methods are complied with.
  To ensure that discussions are conducted properly it may also, unless the 
Council decides otherwise, take any appropriate measure necessary to achieve 
the best possible use of the time available during meetings and in particular:
  (a)  restrict the numbers per delegation present in the meeting room for 
discussion of a particular item, and decide whether to authorise the 
opening of an overflow room;
  (b)  set the order in which items are to be taken and determine the duration of 
discussions on them;
  (c)  organise the time allotted for discussion of a particular item, in particular 
through limiting the time during which participants may speak and 
determining the order in which they may take the floor;
  (d)  ask delegations to present in writing their proposals for amendment 
of a text under discussion before a given date, together with a brief 
explanation if appropriate;
  (e)  ask delegations which have identical or similar positions on a particular 
item, on a text or on part of a text to choose one of them to express their 
shared position at the meeting or in writing before the meeting.
2.  Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 19(4) to (6) and to its powers and 
its overall political responsibility, the six-monthly Presidency shall be assisted 
in all its responsibilities by the other members of the pre-established group of 
three Member States referred to in Article 1(4) on the basis of the 18-month 
programme or pursuant to other arrangements agreed between them. It shall 
also be assisted, where appropriate, by the representative of the Member State 
next holding the Presidency. At the Presidency’s request and acting on its 
instructions, that representative or a member of that group shall replace it as 
and when required, shall relieve it, where necessary, of certain tasks and shall 
ensure the continuity of the Council’s proceedings.
Article 21122 123
Reports from committees and working parties
Notwithstanding the other provisions of these Rules of Procedure, the Presidency 
shall organise the meetings of the various committees and working parties so 
122  These provisions are without prejudice to the role of the Economic and Financial 
Committee as laid down in Article 134 of the TFEU and to existing Council Decisions 
thereon (OJ L 358, 31.12.1998, p. 109 and OJ L 5, 9.1.1999, p. 71).
123  See statement (j) set out below:
(j) Re Article 21:
‘Reports from working parties and any other documents used as a basis for Coreper’s 
discussions should be sent to delegations in time to allow for their examination.’
100  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

that their reports are available before the Coreper meetings at which they are to 
be examined.
Unless considerations of urgency require otherwise, the Presidency shall postpone 
to a subsequent Coreper meeting any legislative acts on which the committee or 
working party has not completed its discussions at least five working days prior 
to Coreper’s meeting.
Article 22
Quality of drafting124 
In order to assist the Council in its task of ensuring the drafting quality of the 
legislative acts which it adopts, the Legal Service shall be responsible for checking 
the drafting quality of proposals and draft acts at the appropriate stage, as well as 
for bringing drafting suggestions to the attention of the Council and its bodies, 
pursuant to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common 
guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation125.
Throughout the legislative process, those who submit texts in connection with 
the Council’s proceedings shall pay special attention to the quality of the drafting.
Article 23
The Secretary-General and the General Secretariat
1.  The Council shall be assisted by a General Secretariat, under the responsibility 
of a Secretary-General appointed by the Council acting by a qualified majority.
2.  The Council shall decide on the organisation of the General Secretariat126.
  Under its authority the Secretary-General shall take all the measures necessary 
to ensure the smooth running of the General Secretariat.
3.  The General Secretariat shall be closely and continual y involved in organising, 
coordinating and ensuring the coherence of the Council’s work and 
implementation of its 18-month programme. Under the responsibility and 
guidance of the Presidency, it shall assist the latter in seeking solutions.
124  See statement (k) set out below:
(k) Re Article 22:
‘The Council Legal Service has also been instructed to provide assistance to Member 
States responsible for an initiative within the meaning of Article 76(b) of the TFEU 
for the purpose inter alia of checking the quality of drafting of such initiatives if that 
assistance is requested by the Member State concerned.’
See statement (l) set out below:
(l) Re Article 22:
‘Members of the Council will comment on proposals for official codification of 
legislative texts within 30 working days of the circulation of such proposals by the 
General Secretariat. Members of the Council will ensure that those provisions of 
a proposal for the recasting of legislative texts which have been taken from the 
preceding act without substantive amendment are examined in accordance with 
the principles established for examination of codification proposals.’
125  OJ C 73, 17.3.1999, p. 1.
126  Paragraph 1 and the first subparagraph of paragraph 2 reproduce Article 240(2) of 
the TFEU.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  101

4.  The Secretary-General shall submit to the Council the draft estimate of the 
expenditure of the Council in sufficient time to ensure that the time limits laid 
down by the financial provisions are met.
5. The Secretary-General shall have full responsibility for administering the 
appropriations entered in Section II - European Council and Council - of the 
budget and shall take all measures necessary to ensure that they are properly 
managed. He or she shall implement the appropriations in question in 
accordance with the provisions of the Financial Regulation applicable to the 
budget of the Union.
Article 24
Security
The rules on security shall be adopted by the Council acting by a qualified 
majority.
Article 25
Duties as depositary of agreements
In the event of the Secretary-General of the Council being designated as 
depositary of an agreement concluded by the Union or the European Atomic 
Energy Community and one or more States or international organisations, the acts 
of ratification, acceptance or approval of those agreements shall be deposited at 
the address of the Council.
In such instances the Secretary-General shall perform the duties of a depositary 
and shall also ensure that the dates of entry into force of such agreements are 
published in the Official Journal.
Article 26
Representation before the European Parliament
The Council shall be represented before the European Parliament or its 
committees by the Presidency or, with the latter’s agreement, by a member of 
the pre-established group of three Member States referred to in Article 1(4), by 
the following Presidency or by the Secretary-General. The Council may also be 
represented before European Parliament committees by senior officials of the 
General Secretariat, acting on instructions from the Presidency.
The Foreign Affairs Council shall be represented before the European Parliament 
or its committees by its President. He or she may, where necessary, ask to be 
replaced by the member of that configuration representing the Member State 
holding the six-monthly presidency of the Council. On instructions from its 
President, the Foreign Affairs Council may also be represented before European 
Parliament committees by senior officials of the European External Action Service 
or, where appropriate, of the General Secretariat.
The Council may also present its views to the European Parliament by means of 
a written statement.
Article 27
Provisions concerning the form of acts
The provisions concerning the form of acts are set out in Annex VI.
102  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

Article 28
Correspondence addressed to the Council
Correspondence to the Council shall be sent to the President at the following 
address of the Council:
Council of the European Union
rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175
B-1048 Brussels
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  103

ANNEX I
LIST OF COUNCIL CONFIGURATIONS
 
1.   General affairs127;
 
2.   Foreign affairs128;
 
3.   Economic and financial affairs129;
 
4.   Justice and home affairs130;
 
5.   Employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs;
 
6.   Competitiveness (internal market, industry, research and space)131;
 
7.   Transport, telecommunications and energy;
 
8.   Agriculture and fisheries;
 
9.   Environment;
 
10. Education, youth, culture and sport132.
It is for each Member State to determine the way in which it is represented in the 
Council, in accordance with Article 16(2) of the TEU.
Several Ministers may participate as full members of the same Council 
configuration, with the agenda and the organisation of proceedings being 
adjusted accordingly133.
 
127  This configuration is established by Article 16(6), second subparagraph, of the TEU.
128  This configuration is established by Article 16(6), third subparagraph, of the TEU.
129  Including budget.
130  Including civil protection.
131  Including tourism.
132  Including audio-visual affairs.
133  See statement (m) set out below:
(m) Re Annex I, second paragraph:
‘The Presidency will organise Council agendas by grouping together related agenda 
items, in order to facilitate attendance by the relevant national representatives, 
particularly where a given Council configuration has to deal with clearly 
distinguishable sets of topics.’
104  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

ANNEX II
SPECIFIC PROVISIONS REGARDING PUBLIC ACCESS TO COUNCIL 
DOCUMENTS
Article 1
Scope
Any natural or legal person shall have access to Council documents subject to the 
principles, conditions and limits laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and 
the specific provisions laid down in this Annex.
Article 2
Consultation as regards third-party documents
1.  For the purpose of applying Article 4(5) and Article 9(3) of Regulation (EC) 
No 1049/2001 and unless it is clear, upon examination of the document in 
the light of Article 4(1), (2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, that it shall 
not be disclosed, the third party concerned shall be consulted if:
  (a)  the document is a sensitive document as defined in Article 9(1) of Regulation 
(EC) No 1049/2001;
  (b)  the document originates from a Member State and:
 
– 
was submitted to the Council before 3 December 2001; or
 
– 
 the Member State concerned requested that it not be disclosed without 
its prior agreement.
2.  In all other cases, where the Council receives an application for a third-party 
document in its possession, the General Secretariat, for the purpose of 
applying Article 4(4) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, shall consult the third 
party concerned unless it is clear, upon examination of the document in the 
light of Article 4(1), (2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, that it shall or 
shall not be disclosed.
3.  The third party shall be consulted in writing (including by e-mail) and be given 
a reasonable time limit for its reply, taking into account the time limit laid 
down in Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. In the cases referred to in 
paragraph 1, the third party shall be asked to give its opinion in writing.
4.   Where the document does not fall within paragraph 1(a) or (b) and the General 
Secretariat, in the light of the third party’s negative opinion, is not satisfied that 
Article 4(1) or (2) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 is applicable, the Council 
shall be seized of the matter.
  If the Council envisages the release of the document, the third party shall 
be informed immediately in writing of the Council’s intention to release the 
document after a time period of at least 10 working days. At the same time, 
the third party’s attention shall be drawn to Article 279 of the TFEU.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  105

Article 3
Requests for consultation received from other institutions 
or from Member States
Requests for consultations with the Council made by another institution or 
a Member State concerning an application for a Council document shall be sent 
via e-mail to [email address] or by fax to +32 (0)2 281 63 61.
The General Secretariat shall give its opinion on behalf of the Council promptly, 
taking into account any time limit required for a decision to be made by the 
institution or the Member State concerned, and at the latest within five working 
days.
Article 4
Documents originating from Member States
Any request by a Member State under Article 4(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 
shall be made in writing to the General Secretariat.
Article 5
Referral of requests by Member States
When a Member State refers a request to the Council, it shall be handled in 
accordance with Articles 7 and 8 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and the relevant 
provisions of this Annex. In the event of a total or partial refusal of access, the 
applicant shall be informed that any confirmatory application must be addressed 
directly to the Council.
Article 6
Address for applications
Applications for access to a document shall be addressed in writing to the 
Secretary-General of the Council, rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175, B-1048 Brussels, by 
e-mail to [email address] or by fax to +32(0)2 281 63 61.
Article 7
Processing of initial applications
Subject to Article 9(2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, any application for 
access to a Council document shall be handled by the General Secretariat.
Article 8
Processing of confirmatory applications
Subject to Article 9(2) and (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, any confirmatory 
application shall be decided upon by the Council.
Article 9
Charges
The charges for producing and sending copies of Council documents shall be set 
by the Secretary-General.
106  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

Article 10
Public register of Council documents
1.  The General Secretariat shall be responsible for providing public access to the 
register of Council documents.
2.  In addition to the references to documents, it shall be indicated in the register 
which documents drawn up after 1 July 2000 have already been released to 
the public. Subject to Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament 
and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with 
regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and 
bodies and on the free movement of such data134 and Article 16 of Regulation 
(EC) No 1049/2001, their content shall be made available on the Internet.
Article 11
Documents directly accessible to the public
1.  This Article shall apply to all Council documents, provided that they are 
not classified and without prejudice to the possibility of making a written 
application in accordance with Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.
2.  For the purpose of this Article:
  – 
 ‘circulation’ shall mean distribution of the final version of a document to 
the members of the Council, their representatives or delegates,
  – 
 ‘legislative document’ shall mean any document drawn up or received 
in the course of procedures for the adoption of a legislative act.
3.  The General Secretariat shall make the following documents available to the 
public as soon as they have been circulated:
  (a)  documents of which neither the Council nor a Member State is the author, 
which have been made public by their author or with his or her agreement;
  (b)  provisional agenda for meetings of the Council in its various configurations;
  (c)  any text adopted by the Council and intended to be published in the 
Official Journal.
4.  Provided that they are clearly not covered by any of the exceptions laid down 
in Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, the General Secretariat may also 
make the following documents available to the public as soon as they have 
been circulated:
  (a)  provisional agenda of committees and working parties;
  (b)  other documents, such as information notes, reports, progress reports and 
reports on the state of discussions in the Council or one of its preparatory 
bodies which do not reflect individual positions of delegations, excluding 
Legal Service opinions and contributions.
5.  The General Secretariat shall make legislative documents and the following 
documents available to the public, in addition to the documents referred to in 
paragraphs 3 and 4, as soon as they have been circulated:
134  OJ L 8, 12.1.2001, p. 1.
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  107

  (a)  cover notes and copies of letters concerning legislative acts and acts 
referred to in Article 8(1) of the Rules of Procedure addressed to the Council 
by other institutions or bodies of the European Union or, subject to Article 
4(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, by a Member State;
  (b)  documents submitted to the Council which are listed under an item on its 
agenda included in the ‘legislative deliberations’ part or marked with the 
words ‘public deliberation’ or ‘public debate’ in accordance with Article 8 of 
the Rules of Procedure;
  (c)  notes submitted to Coreper and/or to the Council for approval (‘I/A’ and ‘A’ 
item notes) concerning draft legislative acts and acts referred to in Article 
8(1) of the Rules of Procedure, as well as the draft legislative acts and acts 
referred to in Article 8(1) of the said Rules to which they refer;
  (d)  acts adopted by the Council during an ordinary or a special legislative 
procedure and joint texts approved by the Conciliation Committee under 
the ordinary legislative procedure.
6.  After adoption of one of the acts referred to in paragraph 5(d) or final adoption 
of the act concerned, the General Secretariat shall make available to the public 
any documents relating to this act which were drawn up before one of such 
acts and which are not covered by any of the exceptions laid down in Article 
4(1), (2) and (3), second subparagraph, of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, such 
as information notes, reports, progress reports and reports on the state of 
discussions in the Council or in one of its preparatory bodies (outcomes of 
proceedings), excluding Legal Service opinions and contributions.
  At the request of a Member State, documents which are covered by the 
first subparagraph and reflect the individual position of that Member State’s 
delegation in the Council shall not be made available to the public.
108  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

ANNEX III
Figures concerning the population of the Union and the population of each 
Member State for implementing the provisions concerning qualified majority 
voting in the Council
For the purposes of implementing Article 16(4) TEU, Article 238(2) and (3) TFEU and 
Article 3(2) of Protocol No 36, the population of the Union and the population of 
each Member State, as well as the percentage of each Member State’s population 
in relation to the population of the Union, for the period from 1 January 2016 to 
31 December 2016 shall be as follows:
Member State
Population
Percentage of the population 
of the Union
Germany
81 089 331
15,93
France
66 352 469
13,04
United Kingdom
64 767 115
12,73
Italy
61 438 480
12,07
Spain
46 439 864
9,12
Poland
38 005 614
7,47
Romania
19 861 408
3,90
Netherlands
17 155 169
3,37
Belgium
11 258 434
2,21
Greece
10 846 979
2,13
Czech Republic
10 419 743
2,05
Portugal
10 374 822
2,04
Hungary
9 855 571
1,94
Sweden
9 790 000
1,92
Austria
8 581 500
1,69
Bulgaria
7 202 198
1,42
Denmark
5 653 357
1,11
Finland
5 471 753
1,08
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  109
RIC and RICE 2016.indd   109
20/04/2016   09:44

Slovakia
5 403 134
1,06
Ireland
4 625 885
0,91
Croatia
4 225 316
0,83
Lithuania
2 921 262
0,57
Slovenia
2 062 874
0,41
Latvia
1 986 096
0,39
Estonia
1 313 271
0,26
Cyprus
847 008
0,17
Luxembourg
562 958
0,11
Malta
429 344
0,08
Total
508 940 955
Threshold (62 %)
315 543 392
Threshold (65 %)
330 811 621
110  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

ANNEX IV
REFERRED TO IN ARTICLE 16
1.  In application of the following provisions of these Rules of Procedure and for 
decisions in respect of which, under the Treaties, one or several members of 
the Council or of Coreper may not participate in the vote, account is not to be 
taken of votes by such member(s):
  (a)  Article 1(3), second subparagraph (holding of a meeting in a place other 
than Brussels or Luxembourg);
  (b)  Article 3(7) (inclusion on the agenda of an item other than those appearing 
on the provisional agenda);
  (c)  Article 3(8) (maintaining as a B item on the agenda an A item which would 
otherwise have had to be withdrawn from the agenda);
  (d)  Article 5(2), as regards the presence of the European Central Bank only 
(deliberation without the presence of the European Central Bank);
  (e)   Article 9(2), first subparagraph, point (b), and second and third subparagraphs 
(making public the results of votes, explanations of votes, statements in the 
Council minutes and items in those minutes relating to cases other than 
those referred to in paragraph 1);
  (f)  Article 11(1), second subparagraph (opening of a voting procedure);
  (g) Article 12(1) (use of the written procedure);
  (h)  Article 14(1) (decision to deliberate and take decisions exceptional y on the 
basis of documents and drafts not drawn up in all the languages)135;
  (i)  Article 17(2)(a) (non-publication in the Official Journal of an initiative 
presented by a Member State pursuant to Article 76 of the TFEU);
  (j)  Article 17(2)(b) (non-publication in the Official Journal of certain directives, 
decisions, recommendations and opinions);
  (k)  Article 17(5) (whether to publish in the Official Journal decisions taken by 
a body set up under an international agreement).
2.  A member of the Council or of Coreper may not make use of the following 
provisions of these Rules of Procedure in connection with decisions on which, 
under the Treaties, that member may not participate in the vote:
  (a)  Article 3(8) (possibility of a member of the Council requesting withdrawal of 
an A item from the agenda);
135  See statement (n) set out below:
(n) Re Annex IV, paragraph 1(h):
‘The Council confirms that present practice whereby the texts serving as a basis for 
its deliberations are drawn up in all the languages will continue to apply.’
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  111

  (b)  Article 11(1), second subparagraph (possibility of a member of the Council 
requesting the opening of a voting procedure);
  (c)  Article 11(3) (possibility of a member of the Council acting on behalf of 
another in a vote);
  (d)  Article 14(2) (possibility for any member of the Council to oppose discussion 
if the texts of any proposed amendments are not drawn up in the language 
he or she has specified).
112  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

ANNEX V
COUNCIL WORKING METHODS
Preparation for meetings
1.    The Presidency shall ensure that a file is submitted to Coreper by a working 
party or by a committee only when there is reasonable prospect of progress 
or clarification of positions being achieved at that level. Conversely, files may 
be referred to a working party or to a committee again only when necessary, 
and in any event only with the remit to tackle precise, wel -defined problems.
2.   The Presidency shall take the steps necessary to advance work between 
meetings. It can, for example, with the agreement of the working party or 
committee, undertake in the most efficient way necessary consultations 
on specific problems with a view to reporting back to the working party 
or committee concerned on possible solutions. It can also conduct written 
consultations by requesting delegations to react in written form to a proposal 
before the next meeting of the working party or committee.
3.    Whenever appropriate, delegations shall set out the positions they are likely 
to take in a forthcoming meeting in written form before that meeting. When 
that includes proposals for amending text, delegations shal  suggest specific 
wording. Wherever possible, written input shall be submitted jointly by 
delegations maintaining identical positions.
4.    Coreper shall avoid going over ground already covered in the preparation of 
its proceedings. That shall apply in particular to ‘I’ items, to information on 
the organisation and order of its business and to information on the agenda 
and organisation of forthcoming Council meetings. Wherever possible, 
delegations shall raise ‘Any other business’ items when Coreper’s proceedings 
are being prepared rather than in Coreper itself.
5.      The Presidency shall convey to delegations as soon as possible when Coreper’s 
proceedings are being prepared all the information necessary to allow 
thorough preparation of Coreper’s proceedings, including information on 
what the Presidency expects to achieve from the discussion on each agenda 
item. Conversely, the Presidency shal , as appropriate, encourage delegations 
to communicate to the other delegations, when Coreper’s proceedings are 
being prepared, information on the positions they will be taking in Coreper. 
In this context the Presidency shall finalise Coreper’s agenda. The Presidency 
may convene more frequently the groups that prepare Coreper’s proceedings, 
when required by circumstances.
Conduct of meetings
6.    No item shall be placed on the Council agenda simply for presentation by the 
Commission or by a Council member, except where a debate on new major 
initiatives is planned.
7.   The Presidency shall refrain from placing on Coreper’s agenda items for 
information only. Such information, e.g. on the outcome of meetings in 
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  113

another forum or with a third State or another institution, procedural or 
organisational questions, etc., should instead be transmitted to delegations 
when Coreper’s proceedings are being prepared, whenever possible in 
written form, and should not be repeated in Coreper.
8.    At the start of a meeting, the Presidency shall give any further information 
necessary regarding the handling of the meeting and in particular indicate 
the length of time it intends to be devoted to each item. It shall refrain from 
making lengthy introductions and avoid repeating information which is 
already known to delegations.
9.    At the start of a discussion on a substantive point, the Presidency shal ,  
depending on the type of discussion which is needed, indicate to delegations 
the maximum length of their interventions on that point. In most cases 
interventions should not exceed two minutes.
10.  Full table rounds shall be proscribed in principle; they may be used only 
in exceptional circumstances on specific questions, with a time limit on 
interventions set by the Presidency.
11.  The Presidency shall give as much focus as possible to discussions, in particular 
by requesting delegations to react to compromise texts or specific proposals.
12.  During and at the end of meetings the Presidency shall refrain from making 
lengthy summaries of the discussions and shall confine itself to concluding 
briefly on the results (substance and/or procedure) achieved.
13.  Delegations shall avoid repeating points made by previous speakers. Their 
interventions shall be brief, substantive and to the point.
14.   Like-minded delegations shall be encouraged to hold consultations with 
a view to the presentation by a single spokesperson of a common position 
on a specific point.
15.  When discussing texts, delegations shall make concrete drafting proposals, 
in writing, rather than merely express their disagreement with a particular 
proposal.
16.  Unless indicated otherwise by the Presidency, delegations shall refrain from 
taking the floor when in agreement with a particular proposal; in this case 
silence shall be taken as agreement in principle.
114  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

ANNEX VI
PROVISIONS CONCERNING THE FORMS OF ACTS
A . Form of Regulations
1.  Regulations adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council and 
Council Regulations shal  include:
  (a)  in their title the word ‘Regulation’, followed by a serial number, the date 
of their adoption and an indication of their subject-matter; Implementing 
Regulations adopted by the Council in accordance with Article 291(2) of the 
TFEU shall include in their title the words ‘Implementing Regulation’;
  (b)  the words ‘The European Parliament and the Council of the European 
Union’ or ‘The Council of the European Union’, as appropriate;
  (c)  a reference to the provisions under which the Regulation is adopted, 
preceded by the words ‘Having regard to’;
  (d)  a citation containing a reference to proposals submitted and to opinions 
obtained and consultations held;
  (e)  a statement of the reasons on which the Regulation is based, preceded by 
the word ‘Whereas: ’, the recitals being numbered;
  (f)  the words ‘have adopted this Regulation’ or ‘has adopted this Regulation’, as 
appropriate, followed by the enacting terms of the Regulation.
2.    Regulations shall be divided into Articles, if appropriate grouped into chapters 
and sections.
3.    The final Article of a Regulation shall fix the date of entry into force, where that 
date is before or after the 20th day following publication.
4.    The final Article of a Regulation shall be followed by:
   (a)
(i)  the words ‘This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly 
applicable in all Member States’,
or
(i )  the words ‘This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly 
applicable in the Member States in accordance with the Treaties ’, 
in any cases in which an act is not applicable to, or in, all Member 
States136;
136  See statement (o) set out below:
(o) Re Annex VI, paragraph A.4(a)(ii):
‘The Council would point out that, in the cases provided for in the Treaties where 
an act is not applicable to or in all Member States, it is necessary to make clear its 
territorial application in the reasons given for and content of the act concerned.’
February 2016  |  EN  |  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  115

  (b)  the words ‘Done at …. ’, followed by the date on which the Regulation was 
adopted,
 and
  (c)  in the case of:
 (i)  a Regulation adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the 
Council, the words:
‘For the European Parliament
The President’

‘For the Council
The President’

followed by the name of the President of the European Parliament  
and of the President of the Council in office at the time when the 
Regulation is adopted;
(i ) a Council Regulation, the words:
For the Council
The President’
followed by the name of the President of the Council in office at the 
time when the Regulation is adopted.
B . Forms of Directives, Decisions, Recommendations and Opinions
1.    Directives and Decisions adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the 
Council, and Directives and Decisions of the Council, shall include in their titles 
the word ‘Directive’ or ‘Decision’.
   Implementing Directives and Decisions adopted by the Council in accordance 
with Article 291(2) of the TFEU shall include in their titles the words 
‘Implementing Directive’ or ‘Implementing Decision.
2.    Recommendations and Opinions issued by the Council shall include in their 
titles the word ‘Recommendation’ or ‘Opinion.
3.    The provisions relating to Regulations set out in A above shall apply mutatis 
mutandis, subject to the relevant provisions of the Treaties, to Directives and 
Decisions.
C . Forms of Decisions referred to in Article 25 of the TEU
Those Decisions shall bear the following headings:
‘Council Decision’, a serial number (year/number/CFSP), the date of adoption and 
the subject-matter.
116  RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL  |  EN  |  February 2016

 
HOW TO OBTAIN EU PUBLICATIONS 
Free publications: 
•  one copy: 
via EU Bookshop (http://bookshop.europa.eu); 
•  more than one copy or posters/maps: 
from the European Union’s representations (http://ec.europa.eu/represent_en.htm);  
from the delegations in non-EU countries (http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/index_en.htm);  
by contacting the Europe Direct service (http://europa.eu/europedirect/index_en.htm) or 
calling 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 (freephone number from anywhere in the EU) (*). 
 
(*)  The information given is free, as are most calls (though some operators, phone boxes or hotels may charge you). 
Priced publications: 
•  via EU Bookshop (http://bookshop.europa.eu). 
 
 



Conseil de l'Union européenne
Secrétariat général  
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175
1048 Bruxelles/Brussel
BELGIQUE/BELGIË
Tel. +32 (0)2 281 61 11
www.consilium.europa.eu
COMMENTS ON THE COUNCIL’S 
RULES OF PROCEDURE 
EUROPEAN COUNCIL’S AND 
COUNCIL’S RULES OF PROCEDURE

Print
PDF
QC-04-15-692-EN-C
QC-04-15-692-EN-N
Print
PDF
QC-04-15-692-EN-C
QC-04-15-692-EN-N

Document Outline