Reforming the European Union: Realizing the Impossible

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

CHAPTER FOUR
Actors and Positions on the Reform of the
Treaty of Nice

Thomas König and Daniel Finke

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS have examined the institutional reforms proposed by the European Convention, the revealed preferences of Convention delegates, and the crucial role of the agenda-setting Presidency for drafting an ambitious reform proposal to revise the Treaty of Nice. At the Convention stage, 207 delegates with different institutional and countryspecific backgrounds were involved in the formulation of the reform proposal, including delegates from candidate countries’ governments and their national parliaments. In this complex reform environment, the Presidency of the Convention, chaired by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, was able to achieve significant agenda control. He successfully used those powers to produce a draft constitution, which formed the basis for the Treaty of Lisbon. But how effectively did the Convention set the agenda for the following stages? How did the constitutional proposal affect the tactics and outcomes of the following process? How did it affect the summit negotiations and ratification in the various domestic arenas?1

In the following chapters we will investigate how political leaders, their negotiators, and the domestic-level actors responded to the constitutional proposal. Specifically, we will take a closer look at the positions taken and strategies revealed by these actors. In doing so we investigate why these actors rejected and amended this proposal several times before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force on 1 December 2009—concluding a reform process that lasted eight years. Occasionally, the individual decisions we observed in this process appeared puzzling. Perhaps they pose evidence of the “irrationalities” in which political leaders indulge when making reforms. However, once we consider the entire picture of this process the pieces fall into place, revealing the strategies actors had used at the time. A major example is the voluntary announcement of an unprecedented number of referendums by political leaders, which suggests their irrationality by paralyzing the reform that they had signed before. In the end, political leaders had to

1 The authors thank Simon Hug for valuable and helpful comments on this chapter.

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