Posted on 08.06.2011

Decision-Making Process

The EU decision-making process


In order to achieve visa-free regime with the EU, a non-EU country needs to meet a series of conditions in the areas of border control, personal document security, public order & security, and human rights. Subsequently, the EU member states may decide to abolish the visa requirement for citizens of this particular state. On a technical level, it is the result of an amendment of Council Regulation 539/2001. This EU law determines whether the citizens of a country can freely enter the Schengen zone, or whether they have to obtain a Schengen visa from an embassy or consulate beforehand. Annex I, the so-called “black list”, lists all the countries and territories whose nationals must have a visa to cross the border into the Schengen area, and Annex II, the “white list”, lists all the states whose nationals are exempted from the visa obligation.


Amendments of Council Regulation 539/2001 require the cooperation of three EU institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. Due to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the decision-making procedure will be slightly different in the future from what it was for Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.


The roles of the three EU institutions are the following:

-The European Commission is the only institution that has the right to propose amendments to Council Regulation 539/2001.[2] The Lisbon Treaty has not changed anything in this regard. This means that the Commission has to put forward a legislative proposal if the Regulation is to be amended.


-The Council of the EU, where all 27 EU member states are represented, has to adopt the proposed amendment. Before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Council was the only body that had to adopt the proposed amendment, voting by qualified majority.


-The European Parliament is now co-decision-maker on equal footing with the Council. Previously, the Parliament had only to be consulted before the Council could take a vote, but the Council was not bound by the Parliament’s opinion. The decision-making procedure that the two bodies follow now is called “ordinary legislative procedure”. This means that the proposed amendment of Council Regulation 539/2001 will go through one or two readings, usually always with the Parliament looking at the proposal first, and, if the two bodies cannot agree on it, it will go before a conciliation committee, which will try to pave the way for adoption.


(adapted from the ESI Schengen White List Project)