THE REFORM PROCESS of the European Union (EU) came to a stop multiple times between 2001 and 2009. Yet, each time, the abandoned project was brought back to life. First, the Treaty of Nice failed to reform the institutional framework. Yet even before the Treaty of Nice entered into force, European political leaders created the European Convention to consider the reform and simplification of European institutions. Second, the Convention brought together more heterogenous interests from across the political spectrum in Europe than previous intergovernmental conferences of political leaders. And yet, the Praesidium of the Convention proposed farreaching modifications to the existing institutional framework. Third, the subsequent intergovernmental conference, convened to discuss the proposal by the Convention, could not agree on the proposed framework (specifically the Council voting rules). Defying expectations, leaders eventually agreed to a reform instead of maintaining the status quo. Fourth, voters in France and the Netherlands rejected the constitutional proposal, but instead of accepting the outcome, political leaders converted the constitution into the Treaty of Lisbon and canceled all previously announced referendums. Fifth, voters in Ireland rejected the Treaty of Lisbon, but instead of accepting the negative vote, leaders kept the treaty alive by making a few further concessions and by asking voters again. So, what was stopped multiple times was in fact revived over and over again. In this book we have traced and analyzed this process, and on the basis of our analysis we can draw four general lessons about reform on such a large scale.
We have emphasized the role of strategic political leadership in reforming the EU given a highly uncertain environment. Although in disagreement over specific reform issues, Europe’s political leaders shared the belief that a reform of the existing institutions was necessary. Whenever the process was about to be aborted, leaders acted strategically to keep it alive. This has been true for the invocation of and the agenda setting within the European Convention, the reaction to the negative French and Dutch referendums and, finally, the reaction to the verdict of Irish voters. Political leaders had no master plan to follow from Nice to Lisbon. Instead, they reacted to apparent