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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Qualified majority

A qualified majority is the number of votes required in the Council for a decision to be adopted, where the treaties allow this type of voting. From 1 November 2004, when the provisions of the Nice Treaty came into force with regard to decision-making in the Council, the threshold for a qualified majority is 232 votes out of 321 (72.2% of the votes) and the vote by the 25 Member States is weighted to reflect the size of their population, and corrected in favour of the least populous countries, as follows: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom – 29 votes; Poland and Spain – 27 votes; Netherlands – 13 votes; Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Portugal – 12 votes; Austria and Sweden – 10 votes; Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania and Slovakia – 7 votes; Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia – 4 votes; Malta – 3 votes.

As various institutional reforms have been carried out, qualified majority voting has replaced unanimous voting, which is less efficient in developing operational Community policies (risk of veto).

The Nice Treaty is also part of this logic, since 27 new provisions have switched completely or partly from unanimous to qualified majority voting. These include judicial cooperation in civil cases, trade agreements relating to services or intellectual property, cohesion policy (from 2007 onwards), industrial policy, measures facilitating the free movement of citizens, economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries and the appointment of the members of certain institutions. With regard to social policy and taxation, the switch to qualified majority voting was not accepted.

Moreover, the majority of measures of a legislative nature which, after the Nice Treaty, require a qualified majority are decided by the co-decision procedure. On the other hand, this procedure was not extended to measures of a legislative nature that are already subject to qualified majority voting (such as the agricultural policy or trade policy). The link between qualified majority voting and the co-decision procedure for all legislative decisions was therefore not accepted.

This page was last modified on : 29-12-2004

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