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GLOSSARY

"A" item / "B" item: The Council's rules of procedure lay down that “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”. An “A” item is therefore a dossier on which an agreement already exists, enabling it to be formally adopted without debate. The items in part “B” of the agenda are scheduled for debate. Similarly, the Coreper agenda is divided into a part “I” (items scheduled without debate) and a part “II” (items scheduled for debate). In addition, the deliberations and decisions of the Council itself under the co-decision procedure are public.

Absolute majority (in the European Parliament): Majority of the members who comprise Parliament. In its present configuration (with 736 MEPs), the threshold for an absolute majority is 369 votes (Note: In the elections in June 2009 which took place on the basis of the Nice Treaty, the number of MEPs was reduced to 736. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1/12/2009, the number will be increased to 754 once the new arrangements have been completed and reduced to 751 for the elections in 2014. Consequently, the numbers necessary to reach an absolute majority will thus change to 378 and 376 respectively). Under the co-decision procedure, an absolute majority is necessary in plenary session when voting on a second reading in order to reject the Council position at first reading or to adopt amendments.

COREPER: Article 16 (7) TEU lays down that “a committee consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council”.
Coreper plays a pivotal role in the Community decision-making system, where it is a forum for both dialogue (between the permanent representatives and between each of them and their capital) and political control (orientation and supervision of the work of the groups of experts). It meets each week and is in fact divided into two parts:

  • Coreper I, comprising the Deputy Permanent Representatives, prepares the ground for the following Council configurations: 
    • Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs;
    • Competitiveness (internal market, industry, research and tourism);
    • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy;
    • Agriculture and Fisheries;
    • Environment;
    • Education, Youth and Culture (including audiovisual);
  • Coreper II , comprising the Permanent Representatives, prepares for the other configurations:
    • General Affairs Council;
    • External Relations Council (including European security and defence policy and development cooperation);
    • Economic and Financial Affairs (including the budget);
    • Justice and Home Affairs (including civil protection).

Coreper monitors and coordinates the work of some 250 committees and working parties consisting of officials from the Member States who prepare the dossiers at technical level.
With regard to the co-decision procedure, Coreper, and particularly its President, is Parliament’s main counterpart.

General approach (in the Council of Ministers): This is an informal agreement within the Council, sometimes by qualified majority, before Parliament has given its opinion on first reading. Such an agreement speeds up work, or even facilitates an agreement on first reading. On the other hand, the Commission gives no definitive undertaking to the Council owing to the absence of an opinion from Parliament. Once the Council has received Parliament’s opinion, the Council prepares a political agreement.

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Inter-institutional relations group (GRI) (French acronym): A body within the Commission with the task of coordinating political, legislative and administrative relations with the other institutions and in particular with the European Parliament and the Council. The GRI brings together members from all the Commissioner's cabinets tasked with monitoring inter-institutional affairs. The GRI meets, in principle, once a week. It handles, more specifically, dossiers dealt with by the Council and the European Parliament which are sensitive from an institutional point of view, some of which come under the co-decision procedure.

Ordinary legislative procedure: formal Treaty term in the Lisbon Treaty to refer to co-decision as set out in article 294 TFEU.

Political agreement (in the context of preparing the Council position at first reading) agreement expressed in principle by the Council, following a vote where appropriate. This agreement contains the guidelines for the future common position and the details are finalised, particularly in terms of the recitals, by the working party, verified by lawyer-linguists, then formally adopted as a common position by the Council at a subsequent session, mostly without a debate. On average, the political agreement comes 3 to 6 months prior to formal adoption of the common position.

Qualified majority (in the Council of Ministers): Since 1 January 2007, the weighting for the number of votes attributed to each Member State is as follows: the threshold for a qualified majority is set at 255 votes out of 345 (73.91 %). The decision also requires a favourable vote from the majority of Member States (i.e. at least 14 Member States). In addition, a Member State may request verification that the qualified majority includes at least 62% of the Union’s total population. Should this not be the case, the decision will not be adopted.

In successive waves of institutional reform, qualified majority voting has replaced unanimity, which is less effective for developing an operational Community policy (risk of veto). With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the above-mentioned regime will continue until 31 October 2014 (see Article 16 (4) TEU,Article 238 TFEU and Protocol No. 36 on Transitional Provisions).

Rapporteur: The MEP responsible for preparing a report.

 

Report (Parliament): Under the co-decision procedure, a Parliamentary report prepares Parliament’s position. Drawn up by an MEP chosen from within the competent Parliamentary committee (the “rapporteur”), it basically contains suggested amendments and a statement of reasons explaining the proposed amendments.

Shadow rapporteurs: MEPs who monitor a dossier for political groups other than that of the rapporteur.

Simple majority (in the European Parliament): Majority of the members taking part in the vote. Under the co-decision procedure, a simple majority is required when voting in Parliamentary committee, in plenary on a first reading and, on a second reading, to approve the Council position at first reading and in order to draw up the act in accordance with the joint draft prepared by the Conciliation Committee.

Statement of reasons: text accompanying an act or preparatory act to explain the reasoning behind it. Such texts consist of Commission proposals, opinions of the European Parliament and common positions of the Council.

TEU:Treaty on the European Union (part of the Lisbon Treaty that entered into force on 1 December 2009)

TFEU:Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (part of the Lisbon Treaty that entered into force on 1 December 2009)

Trilogue / Trialogue (FR): informal tripartite meetings attended by representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Owing to the ad-hoc nature of such contacts, no “standard” format of representation has been laid down, The level and range of attendance, the content and the purpose of trilogues may vary from very technical discussions (involving staff level of the three administrations) to very political discussions (involving Ministers and Commissioners). They may address issues of planning and timetable or go into detail on any particular substantial issue.

However, as a general rule, they involve the rapporteur (accompanied where necessary by shadow rapporteurs from other political groups), the chairperson of COREPER I or the relevant Council working party assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council and representatives of the Commission (usually the expert in charge of the dossier and his or her direct superior assisted by the Commission’s Secretariat-General and Legal Service).

The purpose of these contacts is to get agreement on a package of amendments acceptable to the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission’s endorsement is particularly important, in view of the fact that, if it opposes an amendment which the European Parliament wants to adopt, the Council will have to act unanimously to accept that amendment. Any agreement in trilogues is informal and "ad referendum" and will have to be approved by the formal procedures applicable within each of the three institutions.

Unanimity (Council): Unanimity denotes the obligation to reach a consensus among all the Member States meeting within the Council so that a proposal can be adopted. According to Article 238 (4) TFEU, abstention “shall not prevent the adoption by the Council of acts which require unanimity”. Since the Single European Act of 1987, the scope for unanimity has been increasingly limited. Under the ordinary legislative procedure , unanimity is only required in cases where the Commission cannot accept the amendments introduced into its proposal. Otherwise, the Lisbon Treaty makes provision for unanimity mostly in case of application of the "special legislative procedure".  

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