Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the ordinary legislative procedure is now the most common form of decision making procedure in the EU. It applies to most (but not all) of the policy areas that are contained within the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Under the ordinary legislative procedure the Parliament has the same rights and the same decision making authority as the Council and is therefore able to exercise the greatest amount of legislative power under this procedure.
This process is often deemed the most democratic as by entailing a full legislative role for the European Parliament it is seen to be achieving citizen control over the EU’s policy processes.
Notice how the vast majority of policy areas fall under this decision making procedure (see pages 1-6).
The ordinary legislative procedure has up to three main stages, although the process can be concluded at the first or second stage.
The three possible stages are –
- A first reading by the EP and then the Council
- A second reading by the EP and then the Council
- A Conciliation Committee
Qualified Majority Voting
Decisions under the ordinary legislative procedure are taken by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV). This means that unanimity is not needed for a decision to be taken in the Council when a pre-determined majority of member states (representing a certain percentage of the EU population) are in agreement. In reality, however the Council usually tries to reach unanimity.
Each member state has a certain number of votes weighted by population size. Click here to see a diagram of the number of votes each member state has and how directly (or not) it relates to population.
The prerequisites for a qualified majority are:
- A majority of countries: 50% if the proposal is made by the Commission, or else 67%,
- 74% of votes
- 62% of the EU population
In terms of votes and population at present a qualified majority needs:
- At least 14 (or 18) countries,
- At least 255 of the total 345 votes
- At least 311 million people represented by the states that vote in favour.
Ordinary Legislative Procedure – Key Facts
- Commission proposal followed by an up-to-three stage negotiating process. Decisions are however usually made at the first or second reading.
- Often referred to in the treaties as Article 251
- Nearly all decisions are taken through QMV in the Council
Ordinary Legislative Procedure – Key Features
- Clear veto powers for the Parliament
- Most democratic of the decision procedures
- Procedure where the Parliament has most power
- Largely ‘supranational’ process