Council of the European Union


The Council of the European Union shares decision-making power with the European Parliament, particularly in the areas of law-making and budget approval.

The Council consists of a government minister from each member state. It is a single legal entity, although members are not fixed. The government ministers on the Council will depend on the type of laws or policies that are being discussed.

For example, if changes to agricultural laws at EU level are under discussion, the Council will be made up of the ministers with responsibility for agriculture of each member state (the council of ministers).

The presidency of the Council rotates every 6 months.

The Council of the European Union is a different organisation to both the European Council and the Council of Europe (which is not an EU institution).

What does the Council of the European Union do?

The Council has the following functions:

  • Legislative– The Council has the power to pass laws. This is a power that it shares with the European Parliament. In many cases, legislation must be passed by both the Council and the Parliament to become law. You can read more about how this works.
  • Economic – Every year, the Council drafts guidelines for the economic policies of member states.
  • Policies – the council develops the EU’s foreign and security policies.
  • Negotiation – the Council has a supervisory role and the final say when the EU is negotiating international agreements with other countries and international organisations.
  • Budget – The Council adopts the EU budget together with the Parliament.

How does the Council of the European Union make decisions?

The Council uses qualified majority voting (QMV). This means that in order to have a decision passed by the Council:

  • At least 55% of the member states must agree and
  • The member states in agreement must represent at least 65% of the EU population

To block the proposal at least 4 member states representing at least 35% of the population of the EU must vote against it.

Certain sensitive topics, such as foreign policy and taxation, require a unanimous vote (all member states must be in agreement) to pass.

The Council configurations

The Council has 10 configurations. This means that the Council meets in 10 different groupings. They are:

  • General affairs
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Economic and Financial Affairs
  • Justice and Home Affairs
  • Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
  • Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry Research and Space)
  • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
  • Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Environment
  • Education, Youth, Culture and Sport

Further information and contacts

Council of the European Union

Rue de la Lo 175
B-1048 Brussels

Tel: +32 2 281 61 11
Page edited: 12 July 2022