The Council of the European Union, or the Council of Ministers, is one of the EUís main decision making bodies, and is a body of Member State representatives. This is where the Member State governments are directly represented, as opposed to the citizens (Parliament) or the Union (Commission).
The Council is a single body made up of ministers from the 27 EU countries, but the ministers who sit at the council depends on the topic thatís being discussed. For example, if itís a meeting about agriculture, the ministers for agriculture from all the EU member states will attend.
The Council has ten configurations
and when a decision is made itís always referred to as a Council decision, regardless of which ministers were at the meeting.
The council usually takes decisions based on proposals from the European Commission and it shares its law making responsibilities with the Parliament. The Council can also request the Commission to make proposals on important issues.
Usually both the Parliament and the Council have to agree on a proposal before it can become law.
The presidency of the Council is held for six months by each of the 27 member states on a rotational basis.
Each country has a number of votes in the Council that reflects the size of its population, but itís weighted in favour of smaller countries like Ireland.
Most decisions are taken by majority vote but some require qualified majority voting Ė a system that ensures fair play for all member states regardless of their size.
Sensitive issues like taxation, foreign policy, asylum and immigration require the unanimous agreement of all countries meaning any country can veto a decision itís not comfortable with.
All the work of the Council is prepared or co-ordinated by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), made up of the permanent representatives of the Member States working in Brussels and their assistants. The work of this Committee is itself prepared by more than 150 committees and working groups consisting of delegates from the Member States.
Among these, certain committees have a specific role of providing co-ordination and expertise in a given area, such as, for example, the Economic and Financial Committee, the Political and Security Committee (in charge of monitoring the international situation in the areas of foreign policy and common security and of providing, under the responsibility of the Council, political supervision and strategic direction in crisis management operations) and the Co-ordinating Committee, responsible for preparing work in the area of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters.
The Council of the European Union is separate to the European Council
which is made up of the political leaders of all member states, including our own Taoiseach. It also has its own President
This council meets twice every six months, with the President of the European Commission
also in attendance. The European Council has no legislative powers but it defines the general political directions and priorities of the European Union.
- To connect with Council of the European Union contact your local member of the European Parliament (MEP)
- Visit the Councilís website to find out more or to direct a question directly
- Find out more about how TDs can help here
- Learn about the role of Irish Government ministers on the Council here
- See how contacting the Irish Government departments with responsibility for issues your organisation can help here