The Passerelle Clause is a clause within treaties of the European Union that allows the European Council to unanimously decide to replace unanimous voting in the Council of Ministers with qualified majority voting (QMV) in specified areas with the previous consent of the European Parliament, and move from a special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure. “Passerelle” means “overpass” in the French language.
Certain matters in the Council of Ministers are decided by unanimous voting and certain by qualified majority voting. The distinction is laid down in treaties and cannot normally be changed without a new treaty. Under the Passerelle Clause, voting on certain areas can switch from unanimity to QMV if the European Council unanimously approves this. The decision cannot be later reversed without treaty change.
Before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty there were only four passerelle provisions:
- on police and judicial cooperation established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992;
- on immigration and asylum, social policy and the environment established by the Treaty of Nice in 2001.
After the 2009 Lisbon Treaty further passerelle provisions were added:
A decision of the European Council to use either of these provisions can only come into effect if, six months after all national parliaments had been given notice of the decision, none object to it.
In 2006 a United Kingdom House of Commons committee faced cross-party protests from the European Parliament by referring to the Passerelle Clause as the "Gangplank Clause". The coalition agreement entered into between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties following the 2010 General Election in the United Kingdom included an undertaking to amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any further use of passerelle clauses would require primary legislation in the UK. This agreement led to the approval of the 2011 European Union Act.
- Revision procedures for the Treaty of Lisbon
- Legislature of the European Union
- 2011 European Union Act