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20. Act adopted as amended

The legislative act is submitted directly for the signature of the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the European Parliament and of the Council, and is published in the Official Journal.

The procedure is ended.

21. The Council does not approve the amendments to the common position

If, within a three-month period (may be extended by one month), the Council does not approve all the amendments of the European Parliament, the President of the Council, in agreement with the President of the European Parliament, will convene a meeting of the Conciliation Committee within six weeks (may be extended by two weeks).

Legal basis: Article 294(8) (b) and (14) TFEU.

In detail

Should the Council fail to approve all the amendments adopted by the European Parliament, then the conciliation procedure will be set in motion. The Commission’s opinion on the European Parliament’s amendments is therefore particularly important, since the Council will have to act unanimously in order to adopt a parliamentary amendment on which the Commission has given a negative opinion.

22. Convening of the Conciliation Committee

The Committee has to be convened within six or, if extended, eight weeks from the time of the Council’s formal decision. It is deemed to have been convened when its first meeting takes place.

The period between the end of the Council’s second reading and the convening of the Conciliation Committee is used to prepare the work of the latter, through informal meetings between the three institutions. These informal trialogues bring together small teams of negotiators for each co-legislator, with participation by the Commission. Each team reports to their delegation within the Conciliation Committee.

This intervening period also gives the European Parliament the opportunity to appoint its delegation to the Conciliation Committee and give a mandate to its negotiators, in many cases even before the Council’s position at second reading has been formally concluded.

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23. The conciliation procedure

Composition: the Conciliation Committee brings together members of the Council or their representatives and an equal number of representatives of the European Parliament, as well as the Commissioner responsible.

Modus operandi: in most cases, negotiations are conducted during informal trialogues involving small teams of negotiators for each institution, with the Commission playing a mediating role. The participants in these trialogues report to their respective delegations. The compromise (“joint text”) resulting from the informal trialogues, which often takes the form of a “package”, is submitted to the delegations for approval.

Decision-making: each delegation to the Conciliation Committee must approve the joint text in accordance with its own rules: qualified majority for the Council’s delegation (unanimity in cases where the Treaty specifies an exception to the qualified majority rule) and simple majority for the European Parliament’s delegation.

The Commission’s role: Given that it is the originator of the legislative proposal and can attend meetings of the delegations of both the EP and the Council, the Commission plays a mediating role and frequently proposes compromises. Its main aim is to reconcile the positions of the two co-legislators while defending, as far as possible, the general interest and the requirements of the Treaty in line with its proposal. It is important to note that, at this stage of the procedure, the Commission can no longer prevent the Council from acting by a qualified majority without its agreement.

Elements for negotiation: negotiations focus on all the amendments adopted by the European Parliament at second reading on the basis of the Council's common position.

Time limits: the Treaty stipulates a time limit of six weeks (which may be extended by two weeks) for approving a joint text. The first meeting of the Conciliation Committee signals the start of that period. 

Legal basis: Article 294(10), (11), (12) and (14) TFEU.

In detail

Time limits: The Treaty is clear on the question of time limits: after the Council’s second reading, the President of the Council, in agreement with the President of the European Parliament, has 6 (or max. 8) weeks to open the conciliation procedure. The Conciliation Committee itself has 6 (or max. 8) weeks to reach agreement on a joint text.

In practice, these periods of time are often too short to allow negotiations to be conducted, since the matters at issue may be extremely complex and involve a large number of interested parties. As a result, contacts frequently take place even before the formal conclusion of the Council’s second reading, when it becomes clear that the Council will not accept all the amendments of the European Parliament. Since the Council has 3 (or max. 4) months in which to complete its second reading, the time thereby made available to the negotiators may be used to develop contacts, especially through informal trialogues.

In theory, the duration of work after the second European Parliament reading may extend over 10 months, although the declaration annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam (Declaration – No 34 – on respect for time limits under the codecision procedure) states that the period in question should not exceed 9 months.

“Informal trialogue”: the true negotiating forum

The briefness of the periods laid down by the Treaty for reaching an agreement, combined with the complexity of dossiers and the constricted timetable make it necessary to organise work on an informal basis upstream of conciliation. Thus, the negotiators frequently meet well in advance of the opening of formal conciliation. These meetings, mostly on a trilateral basis, constitute informal trialogues at technical or political levels, with a limited number of participants in the interest of effectiveness. For the European Parliament, the participants are the chairperson of the delegation, the chair of the parliamentary committee and the rapporteur, assisted by members of the European Parliament's conciliations secretariat and, if necessary, a member of the European Parliament's legal service. For the Council, the permanent representative of the Member State holding the Council Presidency is assisted by members of the Council's secretariat, including its legal service.

Lastly, the Commission is represented in the trialogues by the Director-General of the department in charge of the dossier, assisted by experts, its legal service and Secretariat-General. The participants in the trialogues operate on the basis of negotiating mandates given to them by their respective delegations. They explore possible avenues of compromise in an informal manner and report to their delegations. Informal technical trialogues may also be organised, attended for the most part by the three institutions’ experts and secretariats.

Composition of delegations to the Conciliation Committee

Council: Generally speaking, the Council’s delegation brings together the Member States’ representatives within Coreper. The Council’s delegation is chaired by the Minister presiding over the Council in charge of the dossier. It acts by a qualified majority independently of the Commission’s opinion (except for dossiers in respect of which the Treaty requires unanimity).

EP: A European Parliament delegation is appointed for each dossier going to conciliation. It is composed of an equal number of Members of Parliament and substitutes as there are EU Member States (currently 27 each). Three Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament are permanent members of the Conciliation Committee, co-chairing it by turns (currently the Vice Presidents in charge are Mr Vidal-Quadras, Ms Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou and Mr Pittella). The other EP delegation members are appointed by the political groups, in proportion to the size of each group within the European Parliament. As a general rule, they belong to the parliamentary committee responsible for the dossier. The delegation's decisions are taken by a majority of its component members (i.e. currently 14 votes). 

Conduct of negotiations

The work of the Conciliation Committee is prepared in the course of trialogues where teams of negotiators from the three institutions attempt to draw up a compromise (“joint text”), often on the basis of a general package aimed at striking an overall balance.

Attempts are often made to conclude the conciliation procedure at the first meeting of the Conciliation Committee, sometimes through a straightforward statement of agreement. In some cases, several meetings of the Conciliation Committee will be necessary to ensure that the members of the delegations are fully aware of the position and the determination of their counterparts. These meetings may be preceded by trialogues and technical sessions.

Proceedings of the Conciliation Committee

The Conciliation Committee brings together the delegations of the European Parliament and the Council, and the Commissioner in charge of the dossier. The Conciliation Committee is chaired jointly by the chairpersons of the delegations from the two “co-legislator” institutions (a Vice-President of the European Parliament or a Minister of the Member State holding the Presidency). Under the terms of § 32 of the "Joint Declaration on practical arrangements for the new codecision procedure ", the Conciliation Committee meets alternately at the premises of the European Parliament and of the Council.

Immediately prior to the meeting of the Conciliation Committee, the two co-chairs and the Commissioner normally get together to prepare the ground. As a general rule, this trialogue is preceded by a preparatory meeting of each delegation.

Documents available to the Conciliation Committee: the Commission’s proposal, the Council position at first reading, amendments proposed by the European Parliament, the Commission’s opinion thereon, and a joint working document from the European Parliament and Council delegations. In practice, this document tends to take the form of a synoptic table in four columns, containing

(1) the Council position at first reading, 
(2) the EP’s amendments at second reading, 
(3) the Council’s position on the EP amendments (mostly in the form of compromise suggestions) and 
(4) the EP delegation’s position on the Council’s proposals.

Any compromise suggestions made by the Commission tend to take the form of footnotes.

For the most important dossiers (whether agreed in first reading, second reading or conciliation), the meeting of the Conciliation Committee is followed by a press conference making the outcome of the negotiations known to the media. (see point 11 of the "Inter-institutional Agreement on Better lawmaking").

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