Step 2: First reading

Intermediate steps prior to a position at first reading

Before the European Parliament delivers its opinion, the Council may adopt a 'general approach'. The Council uses this document to give the Parliament an idea of its position on the Commission's legislative proposal. A general approach can speed up the legislative procedure and make it easier to reach an agreement between the Parliament and the Council. 

The Council, the Parliament and the Commission can also organise informal interinstitutional meetings, known as 'trilogues', to help them reach an agreement. These meetings are attended by representatives from the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. 

There is no set rule regarding the content of trilogues, so they may vary from technical discussions to political discussions involving ministers and commissioners. Trilogues can also be used to reach an agreement on legislative amendments between the Parliament and the Council. However, the resulting agreement is informal and has to be approved according to the rules of procedure of each of the institutions.

The European Parliament examines the Commission's proposal and may:

  • adopt it or
  • introduce amendments to it

After that the Council may:

  • decide to accept the Parliament's position: in such a case the legislative act is adopted
  • amend the Parliament's position: the proposal is returned to the Parliament for a second reading

Deadline: There is no time limit on the first reading at the Parliament and at the Council

Resulting documents:

  • Legislative act - regulation (binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all member states), directive (binding, in terms of the result to be achieved, may be addressed to all or only some member states, and member states are free to chose the form and methods to implement the directive) or decision (binding in its entirety for those to whom it is addressed) of the Parliament and of the Council
  • Council's position at the first reading, if the Council decides to amend the Parliament's position
  • General approach - a political agreement at Council level that may be adopted pending first reading position of the Parliament