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How does the Council vote?

Depending on the issue under discussion, the Council of the EU takes its decisions by:

  • simple majority (15 member states vote in favour)
  • qualified majority (55% of member states, representing at least 65% of the EU population, vote in favour)
  • unanimous vote (all votes are in favour)

The Council can vote only if a majority of its members is present. A member of the Council may only act on the behalf of one other member.

The Council can vote on a legislative act 8 weeks after the draft act has been sent to national parliaments for their examination. The national parliaments have to decide whether the draft legislation complies with the principle of subsidiarity. Earlier voting is only possible in special urgent cases.

Voting is initiated by the President of the Council. A member of the Council or the Commission can also initiate the voting procedure, but a majority of the Council's members have to approve this initiative.

The results of Council votes are automatically made public when the Council acts in its capacity as legislator.

If a member wants to add an explanatory note to the vote, this note will also be made public, if a legal act is adopted. In other cases, when explanations of votes are not automatically published, it can be made public on the request of the author.

Where the Council is not acting as legislator, it is also possible for the results of votes and explanations of vote to be made public by a unanimous Council decision. The Council and Commission members may make statements and request that they be included in the Council minutes. Such statements have no legal effect and are regarded as a political instrument intended to facilitate decision-making.