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European Union policy area setting process

EU decision-making process

There are 3 main institutions involved in EU decision-making:

  1. the European Parliament, representing EU citizens
  2. the Council of the European Union, representing EU governments
  3. the European Commission, representing the EU’s overall interests

EU policies are typically decided through the ordinary legislative procedure (formerly known as the ‘co-decision’ procedure). This is a process where the three main institutions come to agreement on legislation. 

Drafting EU law

Before the Commission proposes new initiatives, it assesses the potential economic, social and environmental impact that they may have.

The Commission does this by preparing a report called an ‘impact assessment’ that sets out the advantages and disadvantages of policy options. The impact assessment includes input from non-governmental organisations, national authorities and industry, as well as expert groups that give advice on technical issues.

Individuals, businesses and organisations can provide feedback through public consultations (questionnaires) on the Commission’s ‘Have your say portal’.

National parliaments can formally express their reservations if they think that it would be better to deal with an issue at national rather than EU level.

More about impact assessments

Review and adoption

Once the Commission has presented its proposal, both the Parliament and the Council review it and can propose amendments. Typically, the Parliament, the Council and the Commission then meet to see if they can agree on a complete set of amendments.

If the Commission does not agree with any amendments, the Council can only overrule the objection by unanimous decision. If the Commission considers that the amendments excessively change the proposal, it has the right to withdraw its proposal.

If the three institutions do not agree on a common final text, a second reading takes place.

During the second reading, the Parliament and the Council can propose further amendments. Parliament can also block the proposal if it cannot agree with the Council.

If the Parliament and the Council agree on the amendments, the proposal can be adopted. If they cannot agree, a conciliation committee is set up to try to find a solution. Both the Parliament and the Council can block the proposal during this final second reading stage.

A proposal is adopted into law when the Parliament and Council agree on a joint text, and it is published in the EU’s Official Journal.

Ordinary legislative procedure

A step-by-step explanation of the ordinary legislative procedure – where the Parliament passes laws jointly with the Council – and a list of laws passed under this procedure.

Special legislative procedures

An explanation of how the Parliament and the Council work together under the consent and consultation procedures.

Types of EU legislation 

Watch live sessions of the European Parliament

Watch live sessions of the Council of the European Union

Track law-making

Everyone can track the development of proposed EU laws throughout the law-making process, from planning and adoption to implementation and revision.

More about track-law making

Search legislative procedures

Get involved in law-making

The Commission’s better regulation agenda allows individuals, businesses, stakeholders, national authorities and other organisations to contribute to EU policymaking. You can have your say through

Participate, interact, vote.