Skip to main content

The ordinary law-making process in the EU

EU law is initiated by the European Commission, while legislators are the  European Council and European Parliament. It proposes EU legal acts by its own initiative, at the request of other EU institutions, or in response to citizen initiatives.

There are other specific cases defined in the treaties that require a request from a quarter of the member states, a recommendation from the European Central Bank, or a request from the European Investment Bank.. The legislative process starts when the European Commission submits a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission also sends the proposals to national parliaments and, in some cases, the Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions.



  1. A proposal is submitted by the European Commission to the Council and the European Parliament.
  2. Legislative proposals are adopted either at the first reading or at the second reading by the Council and Parliament.
  3. In the event that the two institutions are unable to reach an agreement after the second reading, a conciliation committee is formed.
  4. The legislative act is adopted if the text agreed to by the conciliation committee is acceptable to both institutions at the third reading.

Legislative proposals that are rejected during the legislative process or that are not reached through compromise between Parliament and Council do not become law, and the process is over.

The legal base are Articles 289 and 294 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


1. First reading:

The Commission's proposal is looked into by the European Parliament, after which it is either adopted, or amendments to it are introduced. After that, the Council is going to either decide to accept the Parliament's position and the legislative act is adopted, or it is going to amend the Parliament's position, which means the proposal is returned to the Parliament for a second reading.

Resulting documents:

  • Legislative act
    •  Regulation: all member states are directly subject to it, and it is binding in its entirety
    • Directive: may be addressed to all or only some member states, and member states are free to select the form and method of implementation
    • Decision: binding in its entirety for those to who it is addressed to
  • Council's position in the event that the Council amends the Parliament's position at the first reading
  • General approach: depending on the Parliament's first reading position, a political agreement may be adopted at Council level

There are also informal interinstitutional meetings known as 'trilogues' that can be held by the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission in order to reach an agreement. As there is no set rule regarding trilogue content, trilogues can be technical discussions or political discussions involving ministers and commissioners. 


2. Second reading:

The European Parliament examines the Council's position and either approves it and the act is adopted or rejects it, and the act will not be adopted, which results in the whole process ending. It can also return the proposal to the Council for a second reading with amendments.

After that, the Council looks over the Parliament's second reading result again and either approves all of the Parliament's amendments, which means the act is adopted, or it does not approve all amendments, which means a conciliation committee is going to be set up.


Next steps:

  • If the Parliament approves the Council's position at first reading, the legislative act is adopted and published as a directive, regulation, or decision of the Parliament and the Council.
  • Should the European Parliament vote to introduce changes to the Council's position, the position of the European Parliament will be adopted at the second reading.
  • There will be no official document if the Council does not approve the Parliament's second reading position.


In the absence of agreement on a joint text, the legislative act is not adopted, and the procedure is terminated, in case of agreement on the joint text, it is forwarded for a third reading to the Parliament and the Council.

For inquiries please contact:

RBI Regulatory Advisory

Raiffeisen Bank International AG | Member of RBI Group | Am Stadtpark 9, 1030 Vienna, Austria  | Tel: +43 1 71707 - 5923