Revue Prescrire, article en une, Europe codecision October 2002
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A glance at the codecision procedure
The legislative process of the European Community is based on simple principles: the European Commission prepares draft proposals; the Council of ministers confers on those proposals and asks the opinion of Parliament so that the proposals take into account the interests of the population. Today, in most areas, the adoption of acts requires a codecision of Parliament and the Council.

22 October 2002: Parliament will examine and vote on the amendments in plenary session in Strasbourg

2 December 2002: the Council will examine amendments and make a decision

If the Council accepts all amendments proposed by Parliament, the act is definitely adopted. Otherwise, the codecision procedure provides for a second and even a third reading

Definite adoption: 2003 or 2004

The codecision procedure was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty (Article 251). In this procedure, Parliament and the Council share the same legislative power. They must reach an agreement or the legislative process will be interrupted and the project will be abandoned.

Today, the codecision procedure is by far the most common. Since the Amsterdam treaty, the Cooperation Procedure, in which the Council, by unanimous decision, may go against Parliament's opinion, only concerns certain aspects related to the European Union's economic and monetary affairs. Particularly, everything related to public health, consumers, or interior market, and therefore the proposals currently under discussion on medicinal products, fall under the codecision procedure.

The procedure involves the following steps:

First reading
Parliament deliberates on a proposal of the European Commission, which has already been submitted to the relevant parliamentary commission (in this case, the Environment-Health commission has made a decision on both proposals under discussion for medicinal products). Parliament then gives its opinion to the Council. At this stage, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions may give their opinion (ESC did so on the proposals for medicines).
If Parliament does not modify the proposal, or if the Council accepts all amendments proposed by Parliament, the act may be adopted by the Council. Otherwise, there is a second reading.

Second reading
The Council establishes a common position by a qualified majority (62 votes out of 87, or 71% of all votes (*)). The common position is sent to Parliament for a second reading. Parliament may do one of three things:

• If Parliament approves the Council's common position or takes no action within a three-month period, the act is adopted;

• If Parliament rejects by absolute majority the Council's common position, the legislative procedure comes to an end and the project is abandoned;

• If Parliament makes amendments to the Council's common position, the procedure continues as follows:
- the Council may approve and adopt all amendments proposed by Parliament;
- the Council may reject some amendments, or others may not be approved by the required majority. The President of the Council, in conjunction with the President of Parliament, convenes the Conciliation Committee (composed of 15 representatives of the Council and 15 representatives of Parliament) which will seek an agreement that may be adopted by the required majority in both institutions. The agreement undergoes a third reading.

Third reading

Parliament and the Council have six weeks to make a decision on the agreement. The act must be adopted by qualified majority in the Council and by absolute majority by Parliament.
If the conciliation fails, the legislative procedure comes to an end.

©Medicines in Europe Forum 15 October 2002

(*) Each Member State has a fixed amount of votes for Council decisions: Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, 10; Spain, 8 ; Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and the Netherlands, 5 ; Austria and Sweden, 4 ; Denmark, Ireland, and Finland, 3 ; Luxembourg, 2.
1- "L'Europe je veux savoir" Éditions Luc Pire et Parlement européen, Bruxelles 2001 : 175 pages.
2 - "L'ABC du droit communautaire" Commission européenne, Direction Générale Éducation et Culture, Bruxelles : 115 pages.
3 - "Glossaire Scadplus" Site internet