The Legislative Power

The European Parliament shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers. Depending on the areas involved and the adoption procedures used the European Parliament has a relatively important role to play in the decision making process.

As the treaties have progressed the European Parliament has seen its role as "co-legislator" increase, notably via the codecision procedure which does not apply to all domains however since some still depend on a unanimous vote on the part of the Council of Ministers.

Contrary to a traditional parliament the European Parliament does not have the right to legislative initiative the monopoly of which lies with the European Commission. It can however suggest to the European Commission to make proposals with regard to legislative acts.

There are 4 adoption procedures in European legislation

  • Consultation

    In the consultation procedure (or simple opinion), the European Parliament gives its opinion on a legislative proposal which is then adopted by the Council of Ministers.

    The procedure applies in several areas such as agriculture, competition rules, fiscal issues and the review of the treaties.

  • Assent Procedure

    Introduced by the Single European Act (1986), the assent procedure obliges the Council to have the European Parliament's agreement with regard to certain major decisions. The European Parliament can accept or refuse the Council's proposal but cannot amend it.

    This procedure is notably applicable with regard to membership treaties, association agreements or other agreements with third countries.

  • Codecision

    Established by the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the codecision procedure enables the joint adoption, by both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, of a legislative proposal. The proposal can be read twice in each institution; if there is disagreement a conciliation committee is formed of Parliament and Council representatives who meet to try and find a compromise.

    The Lisbon Treaty transforms this procedure into one of common law, which has now been renamed ordinary legislative procedure. The Parliament is now a true co-legislator. The other procedures have become exceptional legislative procedures, in which the relationship between the two “chambers” is not balanced.
    The new treaty plans for the extension of the co-decision procedure to 40 new articles which means that 73 articles are affected by this new procedure including sensitive areas like the common agricultural policy or policies relative to border control, asylum and immigration [1]. The European Parliament’s legislative powers also affect the control of individuals on the borders, measures governing the reception and treatment of asylum seekers as well as the fight against illegal immigration.