Old "Foundations" and New "Rules" for an Enlarged European Union
Title: Old "Foundations" and New "Rules" for an Enlarged European Union
Citation: Madrid, Instituto Juan March de estudios e investigaciones, 1997
Series/Number: Estudios = Working papers (Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ciencias Sociales); 1997/96
This paper presents a novel arrangement for the distribution of votes and the rules of decision-making in an enlarged European Union (EU). It starts from the observation that if one merely transposes the present arrangement for the EU of 15 member states to prospective EUs with from 17 to 35 members, the result would be a very substantial distortion of one of the EU’s most important “foundational principles,” namely, its method for weighing the voting power of members according to their size of population. Under existing rules for qualified majority voting, it takes 62 out of 87 votes in the Council of Ministers -- needless to say, voting as a single body -- or 71% of the total to pass a measure and 26 votes out of 87 (30%) to veto one. This means that the five largest countries (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain) can veto decisions, but cannot produce a qualified majority without help from either the five medium-size countries (Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Hungary and Sweden) or the five smallest countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg). Hence, the small and medium countries together cannot possibly form a qualified majority without the five largest ones, but they are able collectively to veto a decision. In other words, for the actual system to work effectively, cooperation is needed between all three size categories and, hence, the results are likely to be consensual.
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