The Council of the EU negotiates and adopts not only legal acts but also documents such as conclusions, resolutions and statements, which do not intend to have legal effects. The Council uses these documents to express a political position on a topic related to the EU's areas of activity. These types of documents only set up political commitments or positions - they are not foreseen in the treaties. Therefore, they are not legally binding.
Other EU institutions have similar ways to express their position. For example, the Commission publishes green papers to promote discussion on topics at EU level. A green paper invites relevant organisations or individuals to discuss Commission proposals, which may later become legislative acts. The Parliament can also draft resolutions and recommendations on matters within the EU's competencies.
Conclusions and resolutions
Council conclusions are adopted after a debate during a Council meeting. They can contain a political position on a specific topic. It is important to distinguish between Council conclusions and presidency conclusions. Council conclusions are issued by the Council while presidency conclusions only express the position of the presidency and do not engage the Council.
Council resolutions usually set out future work foreseen in a specific policy area. They have no legal effect but they can invite the Commission to make a proposal or take further action. If the resolution covers an area that is not entirely an area of EU competency, it takes the form of a 'resolution of the Council and the representatives of the governments of the member states'.
Main types of conclusions and resolutions adopted by the Council
Conclusions and resolutions are used for different purposes, such as:
- to invite a member state or another EU institution to take action on a specific issue. These conclusions are often adopted in areas where the EU has the competency to support, coordinate and supplement, for example in health or culture.
- to ask the Commission to prepare a proposal on a specific topic. This is outlined in article 241 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
- to coordinate member states' actions. These conclusions are used in cases where the Council is carrying out a policy objective with a soft coordination process. In these instances, the conclusions or resolutions are drafted to set up objectives or to assess progress.
- to state, within the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) the position of the EU regarding a particular event or country. They express a political position or appraise an international event in the name of the EU.
- to set a coordinated position between the EU and its member states in international organisations. For example, the Council may draft conclusions with a view to the EU's participation in international fora.
- to state comments and possible solutions to problems identified in special reports from the Court of Auditors.
How does it work?
Coreper prepares the work of all the Council configurations and it is divided into two parts: Coreper I and Coreper II.
Before they are adopted, conclusions pass through three levels at the Council:
- working party
- Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper)
- Council configuration
- Before a draft text of conclusions is drawn up, the presidency sometimes submits a discussion paper to look at the issue at working party level.
- On the basis of the discussion, the Council presidency, usually assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC), then draws up a draft text of conclusions. The political responsibility for the draft lies with the presidency.
- The working party meets a number of times to examine the document. The final discussion at working party level takes place around 7-14 days before the conclusions go to Coreper for further consideration.
- Coreper examines the document around two weeks before the Council meeting, and seeks to resolve any outstanding problems.
- The Council configuration concerned will then adopt the text. Council conclusions have to be adopted by consensus between all member states. If ministers don't agree with the text, amendments may still be made.
- In exceptional cases, the Council may not be able to agree to the conclusions. In such cases, the text is sometimes adopted as 'presidency conclusions' which do not require the agreement of member states.