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Qualified Majority Voting (QMV)

This relates to the way EU governments take most of their decisions in the Council of Ministers. Successive treaties since the mid-1980s have greatly extended the number of policies in which decisions are taken by QMV. Today, only the most sensitive issues such as taxation, social security, foreign policy and defence still require unanimity. Under the Lisbon Treaty, a simple system of “double majority” is introduced. The support of 55 percent of member states (at least 15 out of 28) representing at least 65 percent of the EU’s population will then be needed to pass laws. The blocking minority will have to include at least four states. However, a member state an request that the old voting system is used in which case each country has a certain number of votes depending on its size. Germany, France, Italy and the UK have 29 votes each and Malta, the Union’s smallest state, has 3. Added together, the total number of votes is currently 345; to adopt a proposal, 255 votes are required. A “blocking minority” is the number of votes needed to block a proposal: it requires either 91 votes or the backing of 14 member states, irrespective of their size.