Council of State

Other key bodies

Parliament - Council of State - Constitutional Council - Court of Accounts - Economic, Social and Environmental Council


Parliament is made up of two assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate, which examine and pass laws, monitor Government and assess public policies. Members of the two Houses are chosen by two different electoral systems. This ensures that all the diverse components of French society are represented as fairly as possible. The National Assembly, which is elected by direct universal suffrage, plays a predominant role in the legislative procedure, since it has the final decision in the case of disagreement with the Senate and it may, in addition, vote the Government out of office. The constitutional revision of July 23, 2008 strengthened the powers of Parliament.

Each Government or Members’ bill is examined successively by the two assemblies of Parliament with the view to passing an identical text. A bill passed in identical terms by the two assemblies is definitive: it constitutes the letter of the law. The procedure which leads to the definitive adoption of a bill consists of a to-and-fro movement between the two assemblies (hence the term “shuttle”).

Each assembly is called upon to examine and possibly to modify the bill adopted by the other. At each stage only the articles over which there is divergence remain in discussion. The shuttle comes to an end when one of the two assemblies passes the bill without modification and with all its articles, as it has been previously passed by the other assembly. Each examination by an assembly is called a “reading”.

Council of State

The Conseil d’État (Council of State) advises the Government on the preparation of bills, ordinances and certain decrees. It also answers the Government’s queries on legal affairs and conducts studies upon the request of the Government or through its own initiative regarding administrative or public policy issues. The Conseil d’État is the highest administrative jurisdiction - it is the final arbiter of cases relating to executive power, local authorities, independent public authorities, public administration agencies or any other agency invested with public authority.  In discharging the dual functions of judging as well as advising the Government, the Conseil d’État ensures that the French administration operates in compliance with the law. It is therefore one of the principal guarantees of the rule of law in the country. The Conseil d’État is also responsible for the day-to-day management of the administrative tribunals and courts of appeal. Every year, 130 bills, 800 decrees and 300 non-statutory texts are examined by the Conseil d’État.

Constitutional Council

The Constitutional Council was established by the by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic adopted on 4 October 1958. It is a court vested with various powers, including in particular the review of the constitutionality of legislation. The Constitutional Council is not a supreme court that is hierarchically superior to the Conseil d'État or the Cour de Cassation.

Audit Court

The Audit Court is the body responsible for monitoring the legality of public accounts and checking the correct use of public funds. In accordance with article 47-2 of the Constitution, the Audit Court “shall assist Parliament in monitoring Government action”; it “shall assist Parliament and the Government in monitoring the implementation of Finance Acts and Social Security Financing Acts as well as in assessing public policies”.

Economic, Social and Environmental Council

Requests for advice or studies are referred to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government. It may also make an auto-referral since the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008, and have matters referred to it by petition in the conditions laid down by the Institutional Law of June 28, 2010.  If the Government declares a question a matter of urgency, then the Economic, Social and Environmental Council has one month to give its opinion. Bills on programmes or plans of an economic or social nature, with the exception of the Finance Bill, must be referred to it for opinion. The constitutional revision of July 23, 2008 allows the Government nonetheless to consult the Council on draft programming laws which set down the multiannual guidelines for public finances.