Small States in the European Union: Coping with Structural Disadvantages

Small States in the European Union: Coping with Structural Disadvantages

Small States in the European Union: Coping with Structural Disadvantages

Small States in the European Union: Coping with Structural Disadvantages


The most recent EU-enlargements have considerably increased the number of small member states. In the EU-27, 19 countries have fewer votes in the Council of Ministers than the EU-average. These small states face a series of size-related disadvantages in day-to-day EU negotiations. Against this backdrop the book asks: are some small states better at coping with structural disadvantages than others? How active are small states in participating in day-to-day EU negotiations and why do some states use negotiation strategies more frequently than others? Under which conditions are the different negotiation strategies effective and when can small states punch above their weight? Based on more than 100 interviews with policy-makers and an analysis of a unique database on the negotiation activities of EU member states, this book explains how active participation is essential for the shaping success of small states and shows that small states are more influential with persuasion-based rather than bargaining-based strategies. Two case studies on the pesticides and the spirit drinks regulations further reveal that persuasion strategies are especially effective if the arguments match the nature of the issue at stake and resonate well with prior beliefs of addressees. No other study comprehensively analyzes small states in a comparative perspective, examines their activity levels in EU negotiations and outlines which conditions are needed for the effectiveness of a broad range of strategies. An indispensable resource for students and researchers interested in how and under which conditions small states can influence policies in negotiations beyond the nation-state.


Since I am from Germany, which is undoubtedly one of the bigger European states, one might wonder why someone like me studies the role of small states. When I started my new job as a lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin in 2007, I was looking for a new research project to keep me busy for the next couple of years. Suddenly living and working in Ireland, I thought of potential projects that might also be of interest to my new colleagues. Since I am not at all an expert on Irish politics, I began to think ‘what is Ireland an instance of?’, and came up with the answer ‘it is a small state’. Given that my research interests are in international relations and EU studies, the vague small states idea quickly evolved into a study of the role of small states in negotiations beyond the nation-state. This book is a product of my research project ‘Small States in the European Union. Coping with Structural Disadvantages’, which was funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS).

For helpful comments on this project I am especially grateful to Andreas Dür, Ole Elgström, Jos Elkink, Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, Brigid Laffan, Daniel Naurin, Diane Payne, Thomas Sattler, Nicole Simonelli, Julie Smith, Daniel Thomas, Baldur Thorhallsson, Cornelia Woll, and Andreas Wrantjen. In addition, I would like to thank everyone participating in the panels in which I presented bits and pieces of the project during the APSA, EUSA, ECPR, ISA, BISA and PSAI conferences in the last two years. My thanks also goes to the participants of research colloquia of the Dublin European Institute, the Queens University in Belfast and the Dublin City University, the participants of the Cambridge workshop on small states, the Trinity College workshop on the EU as well as my former colleagues from the Free University of Berlin for all their constructive suggestions.

Special thanks goes to the staff working in ministries and permanent representations of the EU member states for filling out the survey and for volunteering for interviews. Although they have heavy workloads, many of them devoted a considerable amount of time to support the project, for which I am extremely grateful. Without their help, this research project could not have been carried out.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my research assistants Lisa Ahles, Josè Canto, Conor Feighan, Natalie Manning, Stephen Massey, Susanne Mulcahy, Paul Quinn, and Michael Verspohl for all their good work that they contributed to different stages of the project.

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