Voting in the Council

(Photo: Notat)

The decision-making rules basically demand an absolute majority of member states (14 of 27 countries), but this method is seldom used.

Much more common is unanimity and qualified majority voting. Qualified majority is 255 of 345 possible votes.

A member state can ask to control if a decision by qualified majority also represents member states with 62 % of the whole EU population. This possibility has never bes used because qualified majority requires 74% of the weighted votes in the Council of Ministers.

The table shows the number of votes for each member state.

Germany 29
United Kingdom 29
France 29
Italy 29
Spain 27
Poland 27
Romania 14
Netherlands 13
Greece 12
Czech Republic 12
Belgium 12
Hungary 12
Portugal 12
Sweden 10
Austria 10
Bulgaria 10
Slovakia 7
Denmark 7
Finland 7

Ireland

7
Lithuania 7
Latvia 4
Slovenia 4
Estonia 4
Cyprus 4
Luxembourg 4
Malta 3
TOTAL 345

For 2008 the Council of Ministers published a list with 147 votes from the total number of 536 legal acts adopted by the Council. Of the 147 votes 128 were unanimous. There were only 8 votes against a law, two from Luxembourg and one from each of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands and Portugal. There were 32 abstentions of a possible number of 14,472 votes. (536 x 27 member states). This is 0,0006 % only.

The future

The Lisbon Treaty provides for a new voting system with a so-called „double majority”. It will  be introduced from 2014.

A qualified majority will then require support from 55% of the member states, representing at least 65% of the EU's population. Or 72 % of the states and still 65 % of the population if an initiative from the Commission is not required.

Member states will then vote after the exact numbers of citizens counted each year. Small member states may halve their vote while Germany will double its vote. You can see the scheme here:

  Nice Treaty Lisbon Treaty
% of votes in the Council Number of votes % of EU population Population in millions
Germany 8.4 29 16.41 82.00
France 8.4 29 12.88 64.35
United Kingdom 8.4 29 12.33 61.63
Italy 8.4 29 12.02 60.05
Spain 7.8 27 9.17 45.83
Poland 7.8 27 7.63 38.14
Romania 4.1 14 4.30 21.50
Netherlands 3.8 13 3.30 16.49
Greece 3.5 12 2.25 11.26
Czech Republic 3.5 12 2.09 10.47
Belgium 3.5 12 2.15 10.75
Hungary 3.5 12 2.01 10.03
Portugal 3.5 12 2.13 10.63
Sweden 2.9 10 1.85 9.26
Austria 2.9 10 1.67 8.36
Bulgaria 2.9 10 1.52 7.61
Denmark 2.0 7 1.10 5.51
Slovakia 2.0 7 1.08 5.41
Finland 2.0 7 1.07 5.33
Ireland 2.0 7 0.89 4.47
Lithuania 2.0 7 0.67 3.35
Latvia 1.2 4 0.45 2.26
Slovenia 1.2 4 0.41 2.03
Estonia 1.2 4 0.27 1.34
Cyprus 1.2 4 0.16 0.79
Luxembourg 1.2 4 0.10 0.49
Malta 0.9 3 0.08 0.41
EU-27 Total 100.0 345 100.00 499.75
Blocking Minority 26.38% 91 35% 174,913
Qualified majority 73.91% 255 65% 324,838

 

See also Qualified majority and Luxembourg compromise