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1. In accordance with the LisbonTreaty (Treaty on the European Union-TEU and Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union-TFEU) only the Commission may put forward legislative proposals ("right of initiative") (except where Treaty provides otherwise, in particular judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters). It may also itself alter any such proposal (Article 293(2) TFEU). The legal basis adopted by the Commission will determine the legislative procedure. Now, in 83 areas the ordinary legislative procedure will apply (see list of legal bases pdf - 102 KB [102 KB] ).

In detail

The Commission’s proposal is the result of an extensive consultation process, which may be conducted in various ways (impact assessment, reports by experts, consultation of national experts, international organisations and/or non-governmental organisations, consultation via Green and White Papers, etc.). 

A consultation process is also launched among the different Commission departments in order to ensure that all aspects of the matter in question are taken into account (Inter-service Consultation).

The Commission’s proposal is adopted by the College of Commissioners on the basis of either a written procedure (no discussion among Commissioners) or an oral procedure (the dossier is discussed by the College of Commissioners), and is published in the Official Journal of the European Union (“C” Series). For more details on the preparatory process, please consult: "Commission at work".

The proposal is forwarded simultaneously to the European Parliament and to the Council but also the all National Parliaments and, where applicable, to the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee.

As far as the legislative process is concerned, relations between the European Parliament and the Commission are governed generally by the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission drawn up in 2005 which is currently under review.

1a Opinions of the national Parliaments

A new important element introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is the strengthened role of the national Parliaments in the legislative process. In particular, the national Parliaments will act as "watchdogs" of the principle of subsidiarity at an early stage of the decision-making procedure. All proposals from the Commission, initiatives from a group of Member States, initiatives from the European Parliament, requests from the Court of Justice, recommendations from the European Central Bank and requests from the European Investment Bank for adoption of a legislative act are to be sent to the national Parliaments at the same time as they are sent to the co-legislator (Council and Parliament). National Parliaments then have eights weeks to send their reasoned opinions on compliance of draft legislative texts with the subsidiarity principle to the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission. Except in urgent cases, an eight-week period shall elapse between a draft legislative act being made available to national Parliaments in the official languages of the Union and the date when it is placed on a provisional agenda for the Council for its adoption of a position under a legislative procedure.

If a draft legislative act's compliance with the subsidiarity principle is contested by a third of the votes allocated to national Parliaments (yellow card), the Commission has to review the proposal and decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the act, also motivating its decision. This threshold is a quarter in the case of a draft submitted on the basis of Article 76 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU on the area of freedom, security and justice.

In the case of proposals falling under the ordinary legislative procedure, if a draft legislative act's compliance with the subsidiarity principle is contested by a simple majority of the votes allocated to national Parliaments (orange card), the Commission has to re-examine the proposal. If it chooses to maintain the draft, the Commission has to justify its position by means of a reasoned opinion. A reasoned opinion of the Commission and the reasoned opinions of the national Parliaments are transmitted to the co-legislator, for consideration in the legislative procedure. During the first reading, the co-legislator considers the compatibility of the legislative proposal with the principle of subsidiarity, taking particular account of the reasons expressed and shared by the majority of national Parliaments as well as the reasoned opinion of the Commission. If, by a majority of 55% of the members of the Council or a majority of the votes cast in the European Parliament, the co-legislator is of the opinion that the proposal is not compatible with the principle of subsidiarity, the legislative proposal is abandoned.

See Protocol 1 and 2 of the TEU.

1b Opinions of the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee

The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions respectively consist of “representatives of the various economic and social components of organised civil society …” and “representatives of regional and local bodies …”. 

The provisions governing the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions are contained in Articles 301 to 307 TFEU. These Committees must be consulted by the Commission and the Council where the Treaty so provides or in cases in which the latter consider it appropriate. The Council or the Commission can set a time limit for the submission of opinions (Article 304 and 307 TFEU). The European Parliament (EP) also has the option of consulting the two Committees. In addition, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions may issue opinions in cases considered by them to be appropriate.

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2. European Parliament (EP) First reading

Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament delivers a position at first reading not an opinion as under previous Treaties.This position, prepared by a rapporteur, is discussed and amended within the relevant parliamentary committee, then debated in plenary session, where it is adopted by a simple majority.

Legal basis: Article 294 (3) TFEU and Rules 35 - 44 (general provisions) and 45 - 52 (procedures in Committee) and 53 - 59 (First reading in Plenary) of the EP’s Rules of Procedure.

In detail

Upon receiving the Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament gets ready to prepare and adopt its opinion.


The Treaty does not set any time limit for the European Parliament to give its opinion. In practice, this phase lasts on average for 15 months if a first reading agreement is reached and 13 months if the files continues into 2 nd reading. It may, however, be much longer, depending on the technical or political complexity of the dossiers. For more details, see section on statistics pdf - 54 KB [54 KB] .

If the parliamentary committee responsible for the dossier does not propose any amendments, the European Parliament tends to use the simplified fast-track procedures (see Rules 138 and 46 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure).

Work in parliamentary committee:

The parliamentary committee responsible is named, along with any other committees which are asked for an opinion (Rule 43 of the EP's Rules of Procedure. In case of matters fall almost equally within the competences of two or more committees, Rule 50 on associated committees shall apply). The legal basis and financial aspects may be evaluated by the parliamentary committees responsible for legal affairs and budgetary issues (Rules 37 and 38 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure). 

Within the parliamentary committee responsible, coordinators (representing political groups) entrust the drafting of the report to a rapporteur (see Rule 45 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure) chosen by a weighting system representative of the political groupings within the committee.

Other political groups may also appoint a “shadow rapporteur”, who will be responsible for preparing the group’s position and monitoring the work of the rapporteur.

The parliamentary committee meets several times to study the draft report prepared by the rapporteur. The rapporteur and the members or substitutes of both the parliamentary committee responsible and any other EP committee may propose amendments to the Commission’s proposal. These amendments, together with those proposed by the parliamentary committees asked for an opinion, are put to the vote in the parliamentary committee responsible, on the basis of a simple majority. Voting on a report is concluded by a vote on the Commission’s proposal as amended and on a legislative resolution (see Rules 49 and 195 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure).

Adoption in plenary

Once the report is adopted in the parliamentary committee, it is placed on the agenda of the plenary session.

Additional amendments to the report, including amendments adopted in parliamentary committee, may be tabled by political groups or at least 40 Members (Rule 156 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure) and put to the plenary’s vote. As a general rule, the deadline for tabling new amendments in plenary is noon on the Thursday of the week preceding the session.

In the course of the plenary debate ahead of the vote, the Commissioner announces and explains the Commission’s position on the amendments tabled. The Commission’s position on the EP’s amendments is prepared by the Directorate-General in charge of the dossier and approved by the College of Commissioners. In practice, the College’s decision is prepared by the Inter-institutional relations group or "GRI" (comprising members of the Commission cabinets responsible for inter-institutional relations), and subsequently ratified by the College.

A simple majority is required for adopting amendments, the Commission's proposal as amended and the legislative resolution (see Rule 55 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure).

If the legislative resolution accompanying the report has been adopted in parliamentary committee virtually unanimously (with fewer than 10% of votes against), the report may be adopted by the plenary without further amendment or debate (Rule 138 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure).

Although the Treaty does not explicitly allow the European Parliament to reject the Commission’s proposal at first reading, Rule 56of the EP’s Rules of Procedure foresees the situation in which the Commission’s proposal, as amended, fails to secure a majority of the final votes cast. In this case, the President of the European Parliament will suspend the vote on the legislative resolution (normally taken following the final vote on the proposal as amended) and will request the Commission to withdraw its proposal. If the Commission does so, the legislative procedure is stopped. If the Commission refuses to withdraw its proposal, the matter is referred back to the parliamentary committee.

However, there is nothing to prevent the European Parliament from adopting a position containing amendments which completely nullify the Commission’s proposal. Such a step will not necessarily stop the legislative procedure and the Commission can always submit an amended proposal, while the Council can adopt a common position.

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