5. The EU legislative process

The EU legislation process develops in the framework of the so-called "institutional triangle" made of three institutions:

Institutional triangle


The Parliament, the only directly-elected EU body, represents the EU’s 500 million inhabitants and consists of 751 deputies. It was first elected by universal suffrage in 1979 and its competences have been extended through following amendments to the EU treaties. The Parliament acts as a co-legislator, sharing with the Council the power to adopt and amend the legislative proposals made by the Commission, which is the only body entitled to initiate legislation. 


The European Commission represents the interest of the European Union as a whole. Its main functions are: to draft common legislation and policy and guarantee they are respected; to make sure policy is implemented; and to manage the budget. It is appointed every five years, following the European elections. Members of the Commission - currently one per country (including the president and vice-presidents) - are vetted by the European Parliament before taking on their functions. The president of the Commission is elected by the Parliament upon proposal by the European Council. The Commission drafts legislation on its own initiative or at the request of other EU institutions or countries, or following a citizens' initiative, often after public consultations. The final proposal is forwarded simultaneously to the European Parliament, Council and national parliaments and, in some cases, to the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee. The department of the Commission that deals with anti-discrimination provisions is the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

Take a look at the current composition of the European Commission: 

EC composition

Source: European Commission 


The Council represents the member states' governments. Each member state takes it in turn to run the Council for six months. There is no fixed membership of the Council: each member state sends the most appropriate Minister for the subject under debate at any particular meeting: financial affairs, transportation, energy, agriculture, and so on. 

The ordinary legislative procedure gives the same weight to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on a wide range of areas. The vast majority of European laws are adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council. Decisions are mostly made by qualified majority, i.e. with the vote in favour of 55% of Member States and 65% of the EU population, except for specific subjects, such as foreign policy and taxes, where unanimity is required. 

Click on the infographic below to know about the ordinary legislative procedure, the possibility of one to three readings by the two co-legislators, and the conciliation procedure between the EP and the Council:

Source: European Union 1995-2017