Cooperation and Competition in the European Parliament: A Game Theoretical Interpretation

By Volacu, Alexandru | Romanian Journal of European Affairs, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Cooperation and Competition in the European Parliament: A Game Theoretical Interpretation


Volacu, Alexandru, Romanian Journal of European Affairs


Abstract:

In this paper the author analyzes the nature of the legislative process which takes place within the European Parliament by studying the bilateral interactions among its relevant decisional groups, i.e. the parliamentary groups. In this sense, the author uses a methodological approach inspired from game theory, describing these interactions in the form of non-cooperative games similar in structure and function to the "negotiator's dilemma" model proposed by Lax and Sebenius. Through comparing at a theoretical level the optimal strategies employed by parties in national parliaments with a majority-supported government with the optimal strategies employed by groups in the European Parliament the author concludes that the level of bilateral cooperation in the EP surpasses the one existent in national legislatures as cooperation is induced through the systemic relation developed among the groups as well as through institutional and ideological factors.

Keywords: bilateral interaction, cooperation, competition, European Parliament, negotiator's dilemma, utility function

JEL Classification: C72, C73, C78, D72

Section one

The European Union's decision-making process was, ever since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community1 and of the European Economic Community2, defined and modelled by a significant number of political actors, both institutional and partisan (Tsebelis, 2002, p. 12). One of the most important actors in this process, the European Parliament, has managed to enjoy an almost constant increase from the perspective of its attributed powers within the institutional system, as European integration was consolidated both in the intensive dimension and in the extensive one. Although it existed since the founding of the European Communities, the institution - then entitled "Parliamentary Assembly"- was initially unable to play a significant role in the intrinsic institutional mechanisms of the system. This situation persisted until the end of the 8th decade, specifically in 1979, when members of the "European Parliament"3 were elected for the first time, and not appointed as it was the case in the previous terms. Through this method the MEPs4 were conferred popular legitimacy, and the demand for an expansion of powers delegated to the institution to which they were affiliated was an obvious consequence of their representative status. The tendency to assign more powers to the EP became a prevalent pattern, recurring constantly in future treaties. Firstly, according to the Single European Act (1986), the European Parliament was granted for the first time a significant role with respect to the approval of EU legislation, through the introduction of the cooperation procedure. Only six years later, the EP attained a status similar to the one held by the Council through the introduction of the co-decision procedure (although only in a limited range of domains) in the Treaty of Maastricht. This tendency was also followed in the next two treaties, as both in the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and in the subsequent Treaty of Nice (2000) the competence area of the EP was significantly expanded (Bärbulescu, 2008, pp.2 13-223).

Section two

The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, maintained the direction of the previous treaties, and once again granted additional powers to the European Parliament. The most important provision affecting the EP was, by far, an expansion in the number of areas where co-decision is used. Unlike previous treaties however, the Lisbon Treaty did not only further expand the number of co-decision employing domains, but it attributed to co-decision the title of "ordinary legislative procedure"5, thereby making it the primary decision-making procedure utilized in the EU legislative process.

All areas in which co-decision is not employed are decided upon through the "special legislative procedures"6. The main areas in which decisions are taken through special ordinary procedures are the former 2nd pillar7 -the Common Foreign and Security Policy-, certain regulations of the internal market (Art.

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