Principals and Agents: From the Convention’s
Proposal to the Constitutional Treaty
Thomas König and Daniel Finke
THIS CHAPTER STUDIES the amendment of the European Convention’s proposal for the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe to the reform compromise brokered under the Irish Presidency in June 2004 from a principal-agent perspective. Unlike previous treaty revisions, the revision of the Treaty of Nice was characterized by summit failure that led to additional bi- and multilateral negotiations over compromise solutions. Early on, the Italian Presidency under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was made responsible for the failure of the Brussels summit on 13 December 2003, but in truth the announcement of a high number of referendums from political leaders pursuing diverse reform interests had eliminated their bargaining leverage at the summit’s negotiation table. Six months later the Irish Presidency presented a compromise, which was accepted and signed by all twenty-five political leaders on 29 October 2004 in Rome. To overcome their stalemate, political leaders delegated their bargaining power to governmental agents in order to work out a compromise solution for the revision of the Treaty of Nice. The puzzle in this situation was that these experts were officially tasked to defend the leaders’ position while they nevertheless had to deviate from this position to find a compromise solution. Instead of political leaders bound to their public statement, these agents were high-ranking officials acting outside the spotlights and engaging in deliberation among experts rather than in power politics. Unsurprisingly, some agents drifted away from the original viewpoints of their political leaders—a phenomenon inherent to the delegation of power from principals to agents. In complex situations such as the revision of the Treaty of Nice, agents usually have an informational advantage vis-à-vis their principals, which they can exploit when they hold different interests. Therefore, the more interesting question is in which direction the agents’ drifted and, if so, which factors the observable variation across the agents from twentyfive states can explain.
This analysis explains the negotiations under the Irish Presidency and their outcome from a double principal-agent perspective, which includes