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Decision procedure in Denmark and the EU

Denmark’s position to EU matters is decided according to the Danish EU Decision Procedure. In the course of this process Danish Ministries, the Parliament (the Folketing) and relevant NGOs are consulted. The target is to attain consensus on the Danish position within Denmark but also in relation to the EU.

The Danish EU decision procedure is made up of four elements:

1. Special Committees

The Special Committees are the first link in the chain of EU decision procedures. The Special Committees are committees made up of civil servants and dealing with each their topic (e.g. the Special Committee for Health Questions). The ministry being responsible for the relevant matter presides the Special Committee. The number of members from other ministries or directorates varies but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is represented in all the Special Committees.

A meeting in a special committee is called when a proposal has been put to a working group in the Council of the European Union. The Special Committee identifies the contents and possible impact of the proposal and presents the preliminary Danish position.

2. EU Committee

The EU Committee is the second link in the chain of EU decision procedures. The EU Committee is made up of civil servants from the various ministries responsible for the coordination of EU matters. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presides the EU Committee. Matters are normally dealt with in the EU Committee parallel to negotiations made at Ambassador level in Brussels. The majority of cases discussed in the EU Committee concerns matters being taken up in connection with a Council meeting in Brussels the following week. 

3. Government’s Foreign Affairs Committee

The Government’s Foreign Affairs Committee is the third link in the chain of EU decision procedures. This Committee is made up of Ministers and it is here that the Government’s policy on the European Union is determined.

4. Parliament’s European Affairs Committee

The Parliament’s European Affaires Committee is the last link in the chain of EU decision procedures. The Minister responsible for the relevant matter to be discussed at a given Council meeting in Brussels will present the case to the Parliament’s European Affairs Committee. The presentation will include the Danish position on the matter. If there is no majority AGAINST the Minister’s presentation, this will make up the guideline for the negotiations in Brussels.

5. The EU decision procedure in Brussels

Parallel with dealing with matters in the Danish decision procedure, these same matters will be negotiated in Brussels. Typically, this negotiation will be done by staff members of the Permanent Representation of Denmark, acting on behalf of Denmark, at civil servant level. Negotiations are always made on the basis of a written mandate from Copenhagen. This mandate – also known as the “instruction” - contains the Danish position and defines the Danish wishes and requests to the result of the negotiation.

The decision procedure is made up of the following links:

1. The Working Groups of the Council

The working groups of the Council make up the first link of the chain of decision procedures. This is where the technical negotiation of matters is initiated. All member states as well as the Commission are represented in the working groups of the Council. The Presidency chairs the meetings of the working group. When a case has been finalized in the working group, or if the working group has not been able to progress in the negotiations, the matter is sent on to the Coreper. 

2. PSC

The Political and Security Committee is responsible for the current handling of matters pertaining to the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which is an intergovernmental matter. At the same time, the CFSP is responsible for matters related to the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which forms an integrated part of the CFSP. The PSC is made up of a special group of ambassadors posted to Brussels.

3. Coreper

Coreper is made up of the member states’ ambassadors (as well as a representative from the Commission). Coreper’s task is to prepare the meetings of the Council of the European Union and to discuss cases where agreement was not reached in the working groups. Thus, Coreper acts as a link between civil servants and ministers. The meetings in Coreper are chaired by the Presidency.

4. The Council

When the Council assembles, all member states’ ministers and the Commission are represented. The Council makes decisions based on the preliminary negotiations in the working groups, PSC and Coreper. Council meetings are chaired by the Minister whose member state holds the Presidency.

5. The European Parliament

In many cases the European Parliament is part of the legislative power. In such cases, both the Council and the European Parliament have to agree in order for a proposal to be adopted. In other cases, the Council has to consult the European Parliament before a proposal can be adopted by the Council.

The European Council

Apart from the regular Council meetings, heads of states and governments from the member states meet four times a year at the European Council. These meetings have no formal connection to the decision procedures in the EU and the member states as such. At the European Council more overall topics and more general, political questions are discussed with a view to issuing guidelines for the future work of the EU and the member states. For example, the question of amendments to the treaty and the admission of the new member states were decided by the European Council.

In Denmark, the Government’s position on the points at the agenda of the European Council is prepared by the Government Committee for the European Council and the Future of Europe.