Resource Centre > Key Players > Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers)

The Council of Ministers (Council of the European Union) is the main decision-making body in the EU. The decision-making power is increasingly shared with the European Parliament (following the introduction of a cooperation procedure and a co-decision procedure). It takes decisions, depending on the subject area, by unanimous vote, by simple or qualified majority vote.

Javier Solana is the Secretary General of the Council. The Presidency of the Council is held by each Member State on a rotational basis (See Council Decision determining the order). The membership of the Council depends on the area under discussion. The ministers from national governments of all the Member States responsible for a particular area make up the following:

  • Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council: brings together Justice Ministers and Interior Ministers about once every two months to discuss the development and implementation of cooperation and common policies in this sector. The creation of an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, is a key aim of the EU. Most of the matters in this field are decided by unanimity with a consultation of the European Parliament. Some matters however (judicial cooperation in civil matters included) are decided by qualified majority, in consultation or in co-decision with the European Parliament, depending on the matter. Harmonisation of Member States’ laws within the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters is advancing quite dynamically.
  • General Affairs and External Relations Council: Since June 2002 it holds separate meetings on General Affairs and on External Relations. It meets once a month. Meetings bring together Foreign Ministers, although Ministers responsible for European Affairs, Defence, Development or Trade also participate depending on the items on agenda.
  • Competitiveness Council: Composed of European Affairs Ministers, Industry Ministers, Research Ministers, etc. Meets five or six times a year. Deals with Internal Market issues (such as IP, or competition law), industry, and research and development.
  • Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin): Composed of the Economics and Finance Ministers, or Budget Ministers when budgetary issues are discussed. It meets once a month. The Ecofin Council covers: economic policy coordination, economic surveillance, monitoring of Member States' budgetary policy and public finances, the euro (legal, practical and international aspects), financial markets and capital movements and economic relations with third countries. It decides mainly by qualified majority, in consultation or co-decision with the European Parliament, with the exception of fiscal matters which are decided by unanimity.
  • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council
  • Agriculture and Fisheries Council
  • Environment Council
  • Education, Youth and Culture Council