Rules of Procedure of the Council of the European Union

Can any country ask for more time (delay an A-item)? - Answer: yes.

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The Council is trying to quickly adopt the Political Agreement of May 18th as Common Position, which currently no longer enjoys a really democratically justified qualified majority.

Council constellations like the Agriculture and Fisheries Council are being used to pass such A-items. But any member of the Council (any member state delegation) can ask for any A-item to be withdrawn from the agenda, we show you the relevant article of the Council's Rules of Procedure.


According to Article 3 clause 1, the provisional agenda must have been sent out 14 days before the Council meeting. It can change until the actual start of the meeting, only then, when it is adopted by all national delegations in unanimity at the start of the meeting, the agenda is final, not provisional anymore.

The presidency secretariat include Items into agenda at any time before adoption at the start of the meeting. COREPER sittings can also decide on wether to add items to the provisinal agenda, some days before the meeting but the secretariat can add new items until the last minute.

If such new items are added, then only under the rules of clause 7, i.e. by unanimous decision of all members. Also in COREPER, any member state can take off items not being put in time on the agenda.

Clauses 7-8, especially 8

Any member of the council (any national delegation) can make additional statements and to ask for further discussion at the session itself.

If a minister believes that an A-item is problematic, he can have the item withdrawn from the agenda.

This must happen at the beginning of the meeting, or the member state's delegation must ask for this item to not be adopted and then the member state can also give a statement to fully withdraw it from the agenda, as happened on 21 December 2004.

Clause 3

Clause 3 stipulates that the parliaments should have been informed 6 weeks in advance. This presumably also applies to the explanatory document which was produced in all member state languages by the presidency in early december. This explanatory document was produced in spite of contrary declarations from national parliaments, and no 6 weeks period was given.

It seems the Council presidencies have choosen to ignore this rule. This could if it really applies here be subject to a court case challenging the approval at the EU Court.

The rule also implies that the Parliaments should have had an opportunity to be informed before actual decisions were taken. If, as the Dutch Presidency insists, the agreement of 18th of May 2004 must be maintained even against the will of Poland and other countries who clearly do not support it, then it would follow that parliaments had to be informed in their languges 6 weeks before the unmofiable decision, i.e. in early April 2004. This also has not happened.

Quotes from the Rules of Procedure

Article 3: Agenda

1. Taking into account the Council annual programme, the President shall draw up the provisional agenda for each meeting. The agenda shall be sent to the other members of the Council and to the Commission at least 14 days before the beginning of the meeting.

(1) See statements (a) and (b) set out below: (a) Concerning Article 3(1) and (2): "The President will endeavour to ensure that, in principle, the provisional agenda for each meeting of the Council dealing with implementation of Title IV of Part Three of the EC Treaty and Title VI of the Treaty on European Union and any documents relating to the items involved reach members of the Council at least 21 days before the beginning of the meeting." (b) Concerning Articles 1 and 3: "Without prejudice to Article 22(2) of the Treaty on European Union, which specifies that an extraordinary Council meeting may be convened at very short notice in cases requiring a rapid decision, the Council is aware of the need for matters relating to the common foreign and security policy to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. The arrangements in Article 3 shall not prevent this need from being met."

2. The provisional agenda shall contain the items in respect of which a request for inclusion on the agenda, together with any documents relating thereto, has been received by the General Secretariat from a member of the Council or from the Commission at least 16 days before the beginning of that meeting. The provisional agenda shall also indicate by way of an asterisk the items on which the Presidency, a member of the Council or the Commission may request a vote. Such an indication shall be made once all the procedural requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with.

3. Items relating to the adoption of an act or a common position on a legislative proposal or a proposal for a measure to be adopted in accordance with Title VI of the Treaty on European Union shall not be placed on the provisional agenda for a decision until the six-week period provided for in point 3 of the Protocol on the role of national parliaments in the European Union has elapsed. The Council may unanimously derogate from the six-week period where the entry of an item is subject to the exception on grounds of urgency provided for in point 3 of that Protocol.

4. Only items in respect of which the documents have been sent to the members of the Council and to the Commission at the latest by the date on which the provisional agenda is sent may be placed on that agenda.

5. The General Secretariat shall transmit to the members of the Council and to the Commission requests for the inclusion of items in the agenda and documents in respect of which the time limits specified above were not respected. If, by the end of the week preceding the week prior to a Council meeting, Coreper has not completed its examination of legislative items within the meaning of Article 7, the Presidency shall, unless considerations of urgency require otherwise and without prejudice to paragraph 2, remove them from the provisional agenda.

6. The provisional agenda shall be divided into Part A and Part B. Items for which approval by the Council is possible without discussion shall be included in Part A, but this does not exclude the possibility of any member of the Council or of the Commission expressing an opinion at the time of the approval of these items and having statements included in the minutes.

7. The agenda shall be adopted by the Council at the beginning of each meeting. The inclusion in the agenda of an item other than those appearing on the provisional agenda shall require unanimity in the Council. Items entered in this way may be put to the vote if all the procedural requirements provided for by the Treaties have been complied with.

8. However, an "A" item shall be withdrawn from the agenda, unless the Council decides otherwise, if a position on an "A" item might lead to further discussion thereof or if a member of the Council or the Commission so requests.

9. Any request for the inclusion of an "other business" item shall be accompanied by an explanatory document.

Article 7 Cases where the Council acts in its legislative capacity

The Council acts in its legislative capacity within the meaning of the second subparagraph of Article 207(3)of the EC Treaty when it adopts rules which are legally binding in or for the Member States, by means of regulations, directives, framework decisions or decisions, on the basis of the relevant provisions of the Treaties, with the exception of discussions leading to the adoption of internal measures, administrative or budgetary acts, acts concerning interinstitutional or international relations or non-binding acts (such as conclusions, recommendations or resolutions). Where legislative proposals or initiatives are submitted to it the Council shall refrain from adopting acts which are not provided for by the Treaties, such as resolutions or declarations, other than those referred to in Article 9.

Further reading

See also

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