The Citadel Council is the governing body of the Citadel. Convening in the impressive Citadel Tower, the Council is the ultimate authority in Citadel space, passing judgement for violations of Council law, settling disputes between governments, and maintaining law and order, often through the use of its own covert intelligence service, the Spectres.
The Council is an executive committee composed of one representative each from the member species. Though they have no official power over the independent governments of other species, the Council's decisions carry great weight throughout the galaxy. No single Council race is strong enough to defy the others, and all have a vested interest in compromise and cooperation.
Each of the Council species has general characteristics associated with the various aspects of governing the galaxy. The asari are typically seen as diplomats and mediators. The salarians gather intelligence and information. The turians provide the bulk of the military and peacekeeping forces.
Any species granted an embassy on the Citadel is considered an associate member, bound by the accords of the Citadel Conventions. Associate members may bring issues to the attention of the Council, though they have no impact on their final decision.
The Citadel Council was founded in 500 BCE by the asari and salarians, the first two races to independently discover the Citadel, believed to be a triumph of the lost Prothean civilization, at the hub of the mass relay network. It was the asari who suggested forming a governing body aboard the space station in partnership with the newcomer salarians. The founding of the Council marks the beginning of the Galactic Standard (GS) calendar, the year 0 GS.
Over the next 500 years, the Council rapidly expanded outward from the Citadel, encountering several new races and incorporating them into the growing galactic community. The volus were the earliest known race that the Council made first contact with; in 200 BCE, the Council granted the volus an embassy at the Citadel in recognition of their contributions to Citadel space, including the Unified Banking Act which established the credit as a standard currency. Along with the volus, the batarians, elcor, hanar, and quarians were also welcomed to the fold during this time.
The Rachni Wars
The times of peaceful first contact ended abruptly for the Council with the accidental discovery of the rachni around 1 CE. The hive-minded, insect-like rachni reacted with extreme hostility and initiated a large-scale war with the races of Citadel space. Negotiation with the rachni queens was impossible; the queens could not be contacted in their underground nests on the rachni worlds.
A turning point in the war came when the salarians made first contact with the krogan in 80 CE, who had been living in the post-apocalyptic ruins of their homeworld Tuchanka for nearly two thousand years. The krogan were uplifted and manipulated into serving as soldiers for the Council. The resilient krogan succeeded where other Citadel races could not. Able to survive on the harsh rachni worlds, the krogan stormed rachni nests and exterminated queens one by one. By 300 CE, the rachni were declared extinct. As a reward for their service, the krogan were given a new, pristine homeworld. A lasting result of the Rachni Wars was the Council's establishment of new laws which prohibited the activation of uncharted mass relays.
The Krogan Rebellions and the Turians
Some 400 years after the end of the Rachni Wars, the Council once again found itself embroiled in a galaxy-wide conflict. The krogan, having exploded in numbers and encroaching on the territories of other races, were asked by the Council to withdraw from the asari colony of Lusia. Outraged, the krogan refused. The Council ordered the recently-formed Special Tactics and Reconnaissance division to make a preemptive strike against krogan infrastructures, and the Krogan Rebellions began.
This conflict persisted for a century, ending only after the Council made first contact with the turians, who agreed the krogan were a threat and declared war against them. The turians inflicted a lethal blow using the salarian-developed genophage; without the ability to quickly replenish their forces, the krogan dwindled. Following the Rebellions, the Citadel Conventions were drawn up. Since 900 CE, the turians have filled the military and peacekeeping niche in Citadel space vacated by the krogan. In recognition of their role during and after the Rebellions, the turians were inducted into the Citadel Council as the third race with full membership.
Expansion, Conflict, and Humanity
The next thousand years were relatively peaceful ones for the Council, interrupted only by some minor galactic incidents and the Geth War of 1895 CE. In that conflict, the quarians were driven from their worlds by the geth, machines created to serve the quarians that had achieved artificial intelligence and rebelled. With invasion by the geth an immediate threat, the Council refused the quarians' pleas for help and revoked their Citadel embassy, and also implemented restrictive laws on AI research and development.
During this time the Council continued to explore the galaxy, encountering new races with varied success. One diplomatic failure occurred with the yahg, a pre-spaceflight race discovered by Council surveyors in 2125 CE. A Council delegation was dispatched to the yahg homeworld Parnack, expecting to quickly establish diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, the predatory yahg misinterpreted the delegation's non-subservient behaviors as an attitude of contempt and promptly slaughtered the delegates. The Council responded by cutting off contact with the yahg and declaring Parnack off-limits to Citadel races; the Council asserted that the extremely aggressive yahg were poorly suited to integrate with the galactic community.
In 2157 CE, the Council intervened in the Relay 314 Incident. A brief conflict instigated by the turians against the newly-encountered humans for what the turians viewed as a breach of galactic law, the First Contact War, as humans referred to it, was brought to an end when both sides prepared to escalate their involvement. The Council revealed itself and the existence of the galactic community to humanity and brokered a peace agreement which forced the turians to pay significant reparations. Humanity quickly rose to prominence and was granted an embassy on the Citadel in 2165 CE.
Mass Effect: Revelation
After their top Spectre agent, Saren Arterius, reported the Alliance's illegal AI research on Sidon, the Council holographically confronted the first human ambassador, Anita Goyle, and announced they would impose heavy sanctions on the Alliance with regular reports from personal overseers. Goyle predicted their ulterior motives – intending to curb humanity's rapid growth and expansion – and managed to negotiate a better deal with a passionate speech about humanity's growth as a species.
Goyle later asked for an audience with the Council, diplomatically offering Alliance participation in taking down the rogue AI researcher, Dr. Shu Qian, on Camala. She offered the services of one of the Alliance's most decorated officers, Lieutenant David Anderson, and had him paired up with Saren to assess his Spectre candidacy. As Goyle left, she realised that the Council had anticipated all her requests, agreed measures in advance, and subtly let her know that she had a lot to learn about galactic politics.
Unfortunately, Saren secretly sabotaged the mission and falsified his report to make Anderson look responsible for the destruction of a refinery that killed hundreds of innocent people. It was enough for the Council to bar Anderson from the Spectres. After Saren stole Dr. Qian's research, the Council had no other evidence of the supposed artifact that Dr. Qian had discovered, and refuses to investigate further without proof.
Commander Shepard's induction into the Spectres is seen as the first step toward humanity gaining a seat on the Citadel Council, but this is a thorny issue as humans are still newcomers. Initially the Council is reluctant to bow to the pressure from Ambassador Udina, but proof of Saren Arterius' treachery, and Saren's vendetta against humans, forced their hand.
However, the Council doesn't want to send their fleet into the Attican Traverse, as this could trigger a war with the Terminus Systems. They task Shepard with tracking Saren down and gives the Commander authority to use any means necessary to apprehend or eliminate Saren. At the end of each mission, Shepard has the opportunity to report back to the Council from the Normandy's comm room and discuss matters with them.
Despite this, many humans still see the Citadel Council as anti-human and excessively cautious, which is not entirely unjustified. Much to Shepard's annoyance, throughout the post-mission briefings, the Council refuses to see the Reapers as anything more than a story Saren was using to control the geth, and dismisses the Commander's vision as a simple dream. They justify the dismissal by saying that their own intelligence sources did not uncover anything Reaper-related. The salarian councilor explains their position: "the Council's decisions affect trillions of lives across the galaxy, and they cannot act on the say-so of a single person, even a Spectre, without evidence."
After Shepard discovers that the Conduit is on Ilos, finds the coordinates for the Mu Relay to reach the planet and discovers that Saren and Sovereign are planning to attack the Citadel itself, the Council sends word that they are putting together a massive joint-species fleet to handle Saren and the geth. But when Shepard returns, the Commander realizes the Council is only prepared to put up a blockade to stop Saren reaching the Citadel itself, and they had no intention of going to Ilos. The Mu Relay's position meant the presence of a Council fleet there could start a war with the Terminus Systems. The Council remains convinced that the Reapers are not real, only seeing Saren as a master manipulator who plotted to attack the Citadel and would not reveal his true motives. Shepard's protests only result in the Normandy being grounded by Udina, while the Council quietly closed diplomatic channels.
Shepard manages to escape the Citadel, but the Council had no time to retaliate, as they are soon faced with a massive geth armada led by Sovereign. When the Citadel fails to respond, the Council is evacuated to the Destiny Ascension, which then comes under heavy fire. Shepard, returning to the Citadel via the Conduit, has a choice of how to deploy the Alliance Navy ships as reinforcements, ultimately deciding the fate of the Council and the future politics of Citadel space.
Focusing on Sovereign and abandoning the Council causes the destruction of the Destiny Ascension and the deaths of the Council, resulting in a new Council being formed with Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina as chairman. Depending on Shepard's morality, Ambassador Udina either states the necessity for the new Council to be assembled of only one species - the humans, or merely calls for a human chairman in a multi-species Council.
Alternatively the Alliance fleet can save the Ascension and the Council, albeit at the cost of many human lives - in this event, the Council accepts that the Reapers are real and humans are invited to join the Council, with either Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina as representative. Either way, the galaxy would look to humanity and the Council for guidance against the Reaper threat.
Mass Effect Galaxy
The Council is contacted by the batarian ambassador, Jath'Amon, with the intention of bringing about a reconciliation between the batarians and the Citadel races. Meanwhile, Jacob Taylor, a former marine of the Systems Alliance, is investigating batarian activity with the help of informant Miranda Lawson. During their investigations, they discover that the true purpose of the peace talks is to facilitate an assassination attempt on the Council by means of a deadly bio-weapon.
After confronting Jath'Amon with the evidence of his treachery during a Council meeting, the batarian releases the weapon and infects the Council. Jacob repels the batarian insurgents and brings Jath'Amon to justice. With the help of an antidote manufactured by the asari scientist Batha, the councilors are cured of their infection before any major harm could befall them.
Mass Effect 2
If the Council is saved, then humanity gains their full trust. Either Anderson or Udina is appointed as the human Councilor, with the other becoming their assistant. Nonetheless, there is not enough evidence to prove to the Council that the Reapers exist, even from what few fragments of Sovereign were recovered. From this, they convinced themselves, and the galaxy at large, that Sovereign was simply a geth construct, painting Saren as the mastermind behind the battle instead.
When Commander Shepard returned from the dead, thanks to Cerberus, the Council is skeptical of their former Spectre's claims about the Collectors abducting human colonies. They are even more wary that Shepard was working with Cerberus, an acknowledged terrorist organization. Though the Council cannot take any official action, they offer to restore full Spectre privileges to Shepard on the condition that the Commander restricts operations to the Terminus Systems. Shepard can accept or refuse the offer.
If the original Council died, the new Council will refuse to meet with Shepard. If Anderson is Councilor, the Commander can still be granted Spectre status, but this is played down as being a mostly symbolic gesture. If Udina is Councilor, Shepard will not be granted Spectre status.
Mass Effect: Inquisition
In 2186 CE, Councilor Udina informs Captain Bailey that C-Sec has been compromised and is working to undermine the Council. Bailey's investigation results in the death of Executor Pallin and Bailey's promotion to Commander, despite Bailey's reservations about Pallin's guilt. Udina does not elaborate on the nature of C-Sec's or Pallin's activities.
Mass Effect 3
By 2186 CE, the Council is forced to acknowledge the existence of the Reapers when the race of machines launch a full-scale assault against the galaxy. Donnel Udina serves as humanity's representative to the Council regardless of previous circumstances, Anderson having resigned and resumed Alliance duties if he originally had the post. Though Shepard and Councilor Udina attempt to petition the Council for aid in retaking Earth, the Council races are more concerned with protecting their own borders. Thus, the Commander is forced to help the Council deal with their own problems in order to gain their support.
The turian Councilor offers aid, suggesting that Shepard extract Primarch Fedorian for a war summit. The asari Councilor declines to participate in the summit, believing that the disputes between the krogan, turians, and salarians were too contentious to overcome and any summit would not succeed.
After Shepard secures a krogan-turian alliance by dealing with the genophage, the salarian Councilor requests via vidcomm that the Commander come to the Citadel. The Councilor reveals that Udina had been using his authority to move vast sums of money for unspecified purposes and wants to investigate these illicit activities. But just when Shepard returns to the Citadel, the Council suffers a betrayal from within. In desperation, Udina reached out to Cerberus and assisted them in launching a coup.
Dealing with Cerberus forces along the way, Shepard meets the salarian Councilor, who had separated from the others. This Councilor warns the Commander of Udina's treachery, having learned of it beforehand and that Udina was leading the rest of the Council into a trap laid by Cerberus assassins. Meanwhile, one of Cerberus' top agents, Kai Leng, decloaks and attempts to assassinate the Councilor while the opportunity presents itself. Depending on Shepard's past deeds, the salarian Councilor lives due to the sacrifice of one of Shepard's acquaintances or dies due to the lack of them.
In due course, Shepard is then able to find the other Councilors and reveals Udina's treachery, though Udina tries to paint the Commander as a Cerberus agent. If Shepard saved the old Council they recall the last time they didn't trust Shepard, however, and if not, the new Councilors reserve a bit more judgment on Shepard's claims. Whichever the case, Udina tries to escape and draws a gun on the asari Councilor, forcing Shepard or Kaidan/Ashley to shoot and kill him. The Councilors express gratitude to Shepard for saving them and offer their assistance in construction of the Crucible.
The asari Councilor later contacts Shepard after the quarian-geth conflict's resolution. Meeting in Udina's office, this councilor reveals there is an artifact on Thessia that could reveal the nature of the final piece of the Crucible: the Catalyst. The artifact is later revealed to be a Prothean beacon, only known to the highest levels of the asari government, due to Council laws forbidding the withholding of Prothean technology. Shepard fails to obtain the information within, causing the asari Councilor to break contact during the post-mission report, claiming to make contingencies for the continuity of civilization.
Military and Intelligence
- Main article: Citadel Fleet
The Council's most important peacekeeping force is the Citadel Fleet, which polices Citadel space and guards the Citadel itself. Mostly composed of turian vessels, the Fleet is large enough to station patrols at a vast number of mass relays and still keep a garrison at the Citadel. The flagship of the Fleet is the asari dreadnought Destiny Ascension. The Council is evacuated to the Ascension in the event of an emergency.
Council Demilitarization Enforcement Mission
The Council Demilitarization Enforcement Mission (CDEM) was created in accordance with the armistice that ended the Krogan Rebellions. Based at Pildea Station, CDEM's patrols oversee the entire Krogan Demilitarized Zone. CDEM logs all ships passing through the DMZ and has the right to board and search them at any time and for any reason. Under the armistice, CDEM is responsible for ensuring that the krogan do not obtain starship-mounted weapons; the penalty for smuggling these weapons is punishable by death by spacing.
CDEM operates battlestations in orbit above Tuchanka and manages the planetary shroud which prevents Tuchanka's surface from heating to inhospitable levels. CDEM also enforces a quarantine around the debris field of Rothla, and maintains a small garrison at Ruam's helium-3 mining stations to prevent the sale of fuel to criminal elements.
Special Tasks Group
- Main article: Special Tasks Group
The salarians often handle intelligence-gathering operations as part of their Council duties, using the Special Tasks Group (STG). The STG is composed of small units of salarian operatives who monitor developing situations or undertake covert missions. STG units formally seconded to Council service are also known as Infiltration Regiments .
- Main article: Spectres
The Council's elite, invested with the Council's authority, Spectres are vital to keeping the peace across Citadel space. They are individuals who act either on the Council's orders or on their own initiative, to preserve galactic stability. Sometimes, in situations where the Council cannot be seen to act officially, they will send a Spectre instead. Spectres have absolute freedom under the law and answer only to the Council. All details of them are classified.
- Ministry of Finance (see Cerberus Daily News: February 4, 2010)
Galactic Standard Time
The inhabitants of Citadel Council Space utilize a standardized time system. This system is different from the Terran Coordinated Universal Time relied on by humans in that:
- A galactic standard day comprises 20 hours.
- Each hour comprises 100 minutes.
- Each minute comprises 100 seconds.
- Each second is half as long as a human second.
As a result, a twenty-hour galactic standard day is 15.7% longer than a standard twenty-four hour Terran Coordinated Universal day, which means it lasts 27 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds in Earth-based time.
A galactic standard year is described as being an average of asari, salarian, and turian years and only 1.09 times longer than an Earth year. This means that a galactic standard year consists of 398.114 Earth days or 343.97 galactic standard days.
- Tevos - The asari Councilor in 2183. Remains Councilor through 2186 unless the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. Tevos is a diplomat and compromiser, but does not hesitate to put the welfare of asari space over that of her race's allies.
- Irissa - Replaces Tevos as Councilor if the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. Unlike her predecessor, she is colder. If she has her hand on an adversary's throat, she will squeeze.
- Valern - The salarian Councilor in 2183. Remains Councilor through 2186 unless the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. Like his fellow salarians, he likes his wars won before they are started, and has no experience dealing with unexpected variables like Reaper invasions. He doesn't like to bother with specifics of unsavory operations claiming that they always disappoint, but apparently is not above personally getting others to further his political goals.
- Esheel - Replaces Valern as Councilor if the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. A practical dalatrass that subscribes to Machiavellian ethics, she's quick to rationalize issues detrimental to salarian interests if there's a very compelling reason to do so. She thinks lowly of her predecessor, saying that the weak-minded Valern would only lead the salarians down the sewage pipe.
- Sparatus - The turian Councilor in 2183. Remains Councilor through 2186 unless the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. Always the first to play the skeptic whenever an idea is raised, Sparatus, when forced to accept the truth of claims he previously dismissed, is just as dismissive of any recriminations against him, instead shifting the focus back to more pressing issues at hand. A consummate politician, he claims the Council uses their authority in the best way they know how to look after their own people in times of adversity, and opts to express personal gratitude on behalf of himself and of Palaven when the situation arises.
- Quentius - Replaces Sparatus as Councilor if the Destiny Ascension is destroyed in the Battle of the Citadel. Unlike Sparatus, he is less antagonistic toward Commander Shepard, and openly espouses the idea that the races should work together against the Reapers.
- David Anderson - Can be elected as the first human Councilor in 2183. If elected, Anderson resigns in 2186 and is replaced by Donnel Udina.
- Donnel Udina - Can be elected as the first human Councilor in 2183. If not elected, Udina replaces David Anderson in 2186 after his resignation. Later killed by Commander Shepard or Kaidan Alenko/Ashley Williams after the discovery of his involvement with a Cerberus coup d'état.
- Sparatus is voiced by Alastair Duncan, who also voices Nihlus Kryik.
- Tevos is voiced by Jan Alexandra Smith, who also provides the voice for Dr. Chloe Michel in Mass Effect as well as Aishi the Mournful Blade and Forest Shadow in BioWare's Jade Empire and Delilah Howe, Nida, and Lady Liza Packton in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.
- Valern is voiced by Armin Shimerman, who also voices Fai Dan.
- In Mass Effect Legendary Edition, the original Councilors' names are divulged as early as the first game through subtitles. In the original trilogy, they were only named in Mass Effect 3 by Udina during his assessment of their temperaments provided they survived the first game.