EPRSauthor By / March 4, 2014

Twenty years of co-legislation: from co-decision to ordinary legislative procedure

Under the co-decision procedure, a proposal needs to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council in order…

© JENS / Fotolia

Under the co-decision procedure, a proposal needs to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council in order to be adopted as legislation. The procedure was introduced just over twenty years ago in the Maastricht Treaty. Over time, its scope has gradually been extended to new policy areas and practices of legislative negotiations have evolved considerably. In the Lisbon Treaty, co-decision procedure became ordinary legislative procedure (OLP) (art. 294 TFEU), which is applicable to a wide range of policy areas, such as Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy and implementation of Common Commercial Policy.

© JENS / Fotolia
© JENS / Fotolia

Both formal and informal intra-institutional communication, have developed over the years. For example, the possibility of first reading and early second reading agreements has been used increasingly as well as trilogues, i.e. informal meetings between representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, which can take place at any time during the procedure. These practices have made the legislative procedure more efficient, but on the other hand, they have been criticised as lacking transparency and blurring accountability.

Different dimensions of the ordinary legislative procedure, such as its role in the institutional architecture of the EU, its practical implementation, as well as the intra-institutional bargaining strategies, have grown in importance with the increased number of co-decision files. This EPRS keysource presents a selection of recently published analyses and information sources on the topic.


Ordinary legislative procedure / EP website EP interactive website presenting the ordinary legislative procedure.

How it works: trilogues / EuroparlTV
Trilogues explained in less than 5 minutes from the European Parliament view point. The EP recently reviewed its rules of procedures on trilogues in order to increase parliamentary participation and openness of the procedure.

Legislative procedures / Summaries of EU legislation
This summary of EU legislative procedures provides a short overview of the ordinary legislative procedure and special legislative procedures as well as the so called passarelle clauses in the Treaty of Lisbon.

Drafting European Union legislation note / Robinson, William European Parliament Policy Department C, PE 462.442, Brussels: European Parliament, 2012, 30 p.
This note explains the process of drafting EU legislation starting from the preparatory work of the Commission to publication of legislation. The roles of the EP, the Council and the Commission in co-decision procedure are presented in detail. Rules and guidelines governing the drafting procedures as well as suggestions for improvements are also presented.

European Parliament celebrates 20 years of co-legislation / Dolidze Tatia, Summary, European Parliamentary Research Service, 2013, 1 p.
This text summarises a conference organised by the Codecision and Conciliation Unit of the EP on co-decision practices in the EU. Past, present and future trends of inter-institutional co-operation in this field are discussed. You can access live webstreaming of the first and second sessions as well as the third session of the 5 November 2013 conference.

Guides & rules on co-decision / ordinary legislative procedure

The following links have been selected to give an overview of the ordinary legislative procedure and the main rules applied.

The European Parliament Conciliations and Codecision Unit has a website providing a wealth of information on the co-decision procedure. This includes activity reports. Moreover, it contains a Co-decision and Conciliation Guide 2012 and other background documents, such as a list of legal bases subject to the co-decision procedure.

The General Secretariat of the Council has published a practical guide: Guide to ordinary legislative procedure, 2011, 59 p.

EP Rules of Procedure/ European Parliament website See title II on legislative procedures, chapters 1-6. See in particular chapter 6: Conclusion of the Legislative Procedure, rule 70: Inter-institutional negotiations in legislative procedures and rule 70 a: Approval of a decision on the opening of inter-institutional negotiations prior to the adoption of a report in committee The European Parliament recently reviewed its Rules of Procedure relating to trilogues and first reading agreements. See procedural file: 2011/2298(REG) EP Rules of Procedure, Rule 70: interinstitutional negotiations in legislative procedures / Legislative Observatory OEIL

Code of conduct for negotiating in the context of the ordinary legislative procedures / European Parliament Rules of Procedure, Annex XXI of the Rules of Procedure.

Joint Declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 13 June 2007 on practical arrangements for the codecision procedure (Article 251 of the EC Treaty) / European Parliament Rules of Procedure, Annex XX of the Rules of Procedure, published also in the Official Journal, OJ C 145, 30.6.2007, p. 5.


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Journal of European Public Policy- Year 2013 Vol. 20 Number 7 – Special issue: Twenty years of legislative codecision in the European Union
In this special issue, academics and practitioners analyse legislative decision-making since the introduction of the co-decision procedure in the Maastricht Treaty over twenty years ago. Control of the negotiation process, re-distribution of power and bargaining tactics are examined from different perspectives. Inter-institutional relations play a central role. The continuous extension of co-decision to new policy areas has lead to an increased work load for the EP Committees and the Council working groups. The use of first reading and early second reading agreements has grown significantly during recent years. The impact of these phenomena is also analysed.

Under the radar? National parliaments and the ordinary legislative procedure in the European Union / Rik de Ruiter, Journal of European Public Policy, 2013, v. 20, n. 8, p. 1196-1212
This article examines parliamentary control of the ordinary legislative procedure on a national level. The main question is: to what extent are national parliaments able to follow, scrutinize and react to EU level legislative procedure? The article examines parliamentary activities of the Dutch and British lower houses on 293 EU directives.

Democratic decision-making in the EU: technocracy in disguise? / Anne Elizabeth Stie, London: Routledge, 2013, EP Library – Brussels
This book studies the ordinary legislative procedure from the point of view of democratic legitimacy. It focuses on the theory of deliberative democracy. It brings together different aspects of democratic representation and assesses their practical implementations in the legislative procedure.

‘The Roles Bureaucrats Play’: The Input of European Parliament (EP) Administrators into the Ordinary Legislative Procedure: A Case Study Approach / Mathias Dobbels; Christine Neuhold, Journal of European Integration, p. 375-390, 2012, 18 p. The authors describe and examine the role of the EP administration in OLP. The EP’s enhanced legislative role puts emphasis on expertise. The tasks performed by EP administration, namely civil servants working for Committees, are scrutinized in four case studies covering two policy areas.

Why is fast track the way to go? Justifications for early agreement in the co-decision procedure and their effects / Rik de Ruiter; Christine Neuhold, European Law Journal Vol. 18(2012), n° 4, p. 539-554, 15 p.
This article covers the evolution of the co-decision procedure to ordinary legislative procedure and the use of first reading agreements. Authors examine the Treaties, intra and inter-institutional rules as well as their application. The urgency of the legislative file in question and the political priorities of the Council and the European Parliament are identified as two important reasons to take this so called “fast track”. These two factors and their impact on various stages of the legislative procedure are studied in this article.

The Informal Politics of Legislation: Explaining Secluded Decision Making in the European Union / Christine Reh; Adrienne Héritier; Edoardo Bressanelli; Christel Koop, Comparative Political Studies, 2011, 32 p.
This article starts by introducing the concept of informal decision-making and continues by presenting the informal politics of co-decision. It offers three explanations for the phenomenon, each highlighting different aspects: functional, sociological and institutional power. Several hypothesis related to informal decision-making are tested with co-decision files from 1999-2009.


The European Parliament Conciliations and Codecision Unit website provides a large variety of information on various aspects of the ordinary legislative procedure. It has a separate section on statistics.

20 Years of Co-decision: a More (Party) Political Parliament a Less Consensual Council / VoteWatch Europe, Special Policy Brief, December 2013, 8 p. Voting patterns of the EP and the Council on co-decision files are examined in this policy brief covering a period of 20 years, starting from the introduction of the procedure in 1993 to 2013. It presents, for example, cohesion among the transnational political groups by analysing roll call votes cast in EP plenaries. It also sheds lights on the evolution of the Council’s legislative activity and level on consensus.

Mid-term Evaluation of the 2009-14 European Parliament: Legislative activity and decision-making dynamics / VoteWatch Europe, Centre for European Policy Studies, 2012, 15 p. This report presents figures and analyses legislative activity during the first half of the European Parliament’s 7th legislature. Furthermore, this report studies the role of committees and examines patterns of forming coalitions in between party groups in the EP in different policy areas.

Voting statistics EP and Council: VoteWatch is an independent organisation collecting data on European Parliament and the Council from publicly available information sources. This data is presented and analysed on the http://www.votewatch.eu/ website.

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