The Council has to vote unanimously on a number of matters which the member states consider to be sensitive. For example:
- common foreign and security policy (with the exception of certain clearly defined cases which require qualified majority, e.g. appointment of a special representative)
- citizenship (the granting of new rights to EU citizens)
- EU membership
- harmonisation of national legislation on indirect taxation
- EU finances (own resources, the multiannual financial framework)
- certain provisions in the field of justice and home affairs (the European prosecutor, family law, operational police cooperation, etc.)
- harmonisation of national legislation in the field of social security and social protection.
In addition, the Council is required to vote unanimously to diverge from the Commission proposal when the Commission is unable to agree to the amendments made to its proposal. This rule does not apply to acts that need to be adopted by the Council on a Commission recommendation, for example, acts in the area of economic coordination.
Under unanimous voting, abstention does not prevent a decision from being taken.