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27th Nov 2021

Crucial summit: last EU-28 format?

  • This may be the last EU summit with the representatives of 28 European countries

The EU summit starting on Thursday (17 October) will be crucial for the future of the whole EU, but especially for the UK since Brexit is imminent and the fate of the world's fifth-largest economy is still unknown.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October - British prime minister Boris Johnson has insisted this will happen, regardless of whether there is a deal or not.

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However, Johnson is obliged to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit if he does not get an agreement with the EU and UK MPs, under new legislation passed last month in the British parliament.

As a result, this EU summit may be the last one with the EU-28 format, at least for some time.

In the EU summits, heads of government from each of the EU member states, the EU council president and the president of the EU commission meet once every quarter to define the EU's overall political direction and priorities.

On 1 December 2019, the current prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, will take office as the new president of the EU council, replacing Donald Tusk.

Likewise, this EU summit will be the last one of the outgoing president of the commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be replaced by the commission president-elect, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen will meet all EU leaders for the first time since her nomination at the EU summit on Thursday.

Consequences for voting system

The EU Council normally decides by consensus.

However, multiple important appointments, such as the commission president and the whole commission, require a double majority - 72 percent of the member states representing at least 65 percent of all EU citizens.

When the proposals come from the commission, the double majority only needs 55 percent of voting members states, still representing 65 percent of all EU citizens.

Other decisions, such as the approval of new member states, require unanimity among European countries.

The UK's withdrawal will have some consequences for the power relations within the council.

According to the EU parliament, Poland, Spain, France, and Germany are gainers in voting power, while the smallest member states, of the population size of Croatia and smaller, will be the losers.

Only in France and Germany the population proportion will rise (to over 33 percent) and as a result, they will have more theoretical possibilities of blocking decision-making.

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