Reforming the European Union: Realizing the Impossible

By Daniel Finke; Thomas König et al. | Go to book overview
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From the European Convention to the Lisbon
Agreement and Beyond: A Veto Player Analysis

George Tsebelis

As WAS ARGUED in the Introduction, the institutional changes introduced in the European Union (EU) between the time of the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Lisbon occurred along two dimensions. The first increased the jurisdictions of the EU, while the second rearranged its institutional structures and had potentially serious long-run distributional consequences. This chapter will focus in the second dimension because it was the more conflictual of the two. The chapter will provide a veto player analysis of EU decision making under different voting rules to explain the importance of these institutional confrontations on democratic legitimacy and policy stability, and explain the strategic significance of two confrontations—one in the European Convention, and one at the Brussels Intergovernmental Conference— that were decisive in the adoption of the new institutions.1

There is a simple reason that agreement on expanding jurisdictions was easier to come by: while there were lots of disagreements along the first dimension (as we will see in chapters 4–7) the essence of the choice over extending EU jurisdiction to any particular area was the result of whether the positive effect generated by policy coordination in this area exceeded the negative effect generated by the abdication of national sovereignty. In other words, different actors (mainly governments) disagreed as to whether the expansion of EU jurisdiction into any particular policy area represented a Pareto improvement that more than compensated for the redistributive losses. The sign of the net outcome depends on time horizons and expectations about events the EU will face in the future. So, while there may be disagreements and high variance of positions, the intensity of preferences was low, and consequently these issues were easily used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.

1 Parts of this chapter are based on Yataganas and Tsebelis (2005) and the Journal of Common Market Studies lecture the author gave at a European Union Studies Association Biennial Conference in Montreal on 17 May 2007 under the title “Thinking about the Recent Past and the Future of the EU” (Tsebelis 2008).


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Reforming the European Union: Realizing the Impossible


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