Third pillar
0 On DEsite
1 General
2 Pillar structure
3 Bodies
4 Decision-making
  • First pillar
  • Second pillar
  • Third pillar
  • Budget
  • 5 Lobby groups
    6 Case histories
    7 Information and publications


    In the Third Pillar, the Commission shares the right of initiative with the Member States (Art. 34 EU). As a rule, the Council decides unanimously. The Council decides measures implementing decisions at the EU level with a qualified majority of votes.

    In contrast to the second pillar, an abstention does affect unanimity and does stand in the way of adopting a decision. In the third pillar, there is no possibility of constructive abstention.

    The Council must consult the Parliament before it can approve (framework) decisions (Art. 39 EU). If the Parliament fails to deliver its opinion within the required three-month time-limit, the Council may act.

    No opinion from the Parliament is required to adopt a common position.


    In the third pillar, the Council adopts the common positions and decides on framework and other decisions, and agreements between Member States (Art. 34 EU).

    The common positions define the approach of the Union to a particular matter.

    Framework decisions serve the purpose of approximation of the laws and regulations of the Member States and may be compared to the directives of the first pillar. They are also binding on the Member States as regards the result to be achieved. However, a framework decision does not entail direct effect.

    Decisions can be adopted for any purpose in the policy field of the third pillar, excluding the approximation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. Decisions are binding but explicitly do not entail direct effect.

    Agreements between Member States are adopted by the Council acting unanimously (Art. 34 EU). The Member States are committed to ratifying agreements in accordance with the provisions of their own national Constitutions. The procedures must be initiated within a certain time limit, specified by the Council. As soon as an agreement has been ratified by at least half of the Member States, it enters into effect for these Member States.

    Art. 38 EU describes a similar procedure for an agreement with a third state.