Parliament and Council adopt
Ordinary legislative procedure
Most EU laws are adopted using the ordinary legislative procedure, in which the European Parliament (directly elected) and the Council of the EU (representatives of the 28 EU countries) have equal say. The Commission submits a legislative proposal to the Parliament and Council, who must agree on the text in order for it to become EU law.
How it works
Via a series of readings of a proposed law, Parliament and Council review and amend the text. If the two institutions agree on the amendments, the proposed law is adopted. If the Parliament and Council cannot agree on amendments, a second reading takes place. If no agreement is reached at the second reading, the proposal is put before a ‘conciliation committee’ made up of equal numbers of Parliament and Council representatives. Commission representatives also attend the meetings and contribute. Once the committee reaches an agreement, the text is sent to the Parliament and Council for a third reading, so it can finally be adopted as law. On the rare occasions where they cannot agree, the law is not adopted.
Special legislative procedures
These procedures are followed only in certain cases. Typically, the EU Council is the sole legislator and the EU Parliament is only required to give its consent to a legislative proposal or be consulted on it. More rarely the Parliament alone (after consulting the Council) can adopt legal acts.
The Council or Parliament can authorise the Commission to adopt two types of non-legislative acts:
- implementing acts, which introduce measures to ensure laws are implemented in the same way throughout the EU countries
- delegated acts, which amend or supplement existing laws, notably in order to add new non-essential rules
Revising the treaties
The EU treaties, which form the basis of all EU law, can be revised to adapt EU laws and policies to new challenges. Any change to the treaties requires the unanimous agreement of all 28 EU countries.
There are two ways to revise the treaties:
- the ordinary revision procedure is used when making key amendments to the treaties, such as increasing or reducing the competences of the EU
- the simplified revision procedure can be used to make changes related to the EU's internal policies and actions, for example, agriculture and fisheries, internal market, border controls, economic and monetary policy, provided they do not extend the EU's competences
The role of national parliaments
National parliaments receive all Commission legislative proposals at the same time as the European Parliament and Council, giving them the chance to react to proposals with an opinion.
In areas where the EU shares power to act with EU countries, national parliaments check whether action would be more effective at national or regional level (principle of subsidiarity). This is called the 'subsidiarity control mechanism'.