Reforming the European Union: Realizing the Impossible

By Daniel Finke; Thomas König et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Revealing Constitutional Preferences in the
European Convention

Sven-Oliver Proksch

A CENTRAL PUZZLE surrounding the process of European institutional reform concerns the functioning of the European Convention. In chapter 1, George Tsebelis argued that the Convention proposed far-reaching reforms that were intended to reduce the policy stability introduced by complex Council voting procedures in the Treaty of Nice. As we will argue in this book, this proposal served as a focal point in subsequent negotiations. But how was the European Convention able to produce such as result? This chapter examines how delegates in the Convention revealed their constitutional preferences during the negotiations and investigates the role of the agenda-setting Presidency. In chapter 3 on the rules and procedures in the European Convention, we will show how the Presidency of the Convention, chaired by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, created significant institutional means for agenda control and how it used these tools to produce a draft constitution. This draft constitution proposed major institutional reforms and formed the basis for the Treaty of Lisbon. In this chapter I will examine agenda control in the European Convention from a positional, rather than an institutional, angle. Giscard’s ability to extract so many concessions from the Convention depended to a large part on his central position within the conflict space. I test this argument by estimating revealed constitutional preferences in the European Convention of both the delegates and the Presidency. Thus, this chapter argues that the Convention’s success was partially due to positional agenda control by its Presidency. This in turn allowed it to successfully employ strategic agenda control to eliminate amendments, select proposals, and finally propose a coherent draft for a European constitution.1

This chapter’s basic premise is that the work of the European Convention marks a milestone for European institutional reform. The Convention pro

1 This chapter is based on Sven-Oliver Proksch, “Drafting Constitutions: A Comparative Institutional Analysis of Constitutional Conventions in the European Union and Germany,” PhD diss., University of California-Los Angeles, 2008.

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