Council of Ministers

The Netherlands took over the 6-month rotating Presidency of the European Union this week from Luxembourg.  The next 6 months in the Council of Ministers will be challenging time with the February Summit finalising an agreement ahead of the UK referendum over EU membership in Autumn. The Netherlands takes the chair of the Council of Ministers and has the opportunity to set the agenda for the 28 Member States.  So how will environment and energy policy fair in 2016 against a background of the ongoing refugee and migration crisis and the threat of terror at the top of the EU’s agenda ?

EU member states look set to approve the European Commission’s 2015 work programme, including its controversial decision to withdraw or modify major environmental policy proposals.

In a draft agreement for the General Affairs Council on 10th February, a list of proposed "withdrawals and modifications” were tabled and did not criticise the Commission’s approach or any individual decision.

Whilst all eyes were on the new Commission, one of the Lisbon Treaty’s ratchet clauses came into effect on the 1st November in the Council of Ministers affecting the way votes are weighted between the larger and smaller member states.  Whilst this sounds arcane, it effects are far reaching for the vast majority of EU law that is now adopted now by co-decision, meaning majorities can outvote minorities. The voting weights of different member states is about the most political issue in the makeup of the EU: it is about who rules the roost, the small or the big member states?