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Coalition Building and Consensus in the Council of the European Union

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2012

Abstract

Although qualified-majority voting is possible, member states in the Council of the European Union (EU) still adopt most policies by consensus. The agent-based model of coalition building in multilateral negotiations presented here addresses this puzzle. The model demonstrates that consensual decisions may emerge as an unintended by-product of government representatives’ desire to form blocking coalitions. A qualitative case study demonstrates the plausibility of the model's assumptions and resulting coalition-building dynamics. Moreover, a quantitative test shows that the model's predictions correspond closely to the observed consensus rates. Finally, computational experiments predict a positive effect of the voting threshold but no effect of increases in membership on winning coalition size, which has important practical implications for institutional design and enlargement policy.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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Footnotes

*

Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick (email: frank.haege@ul.ie). An earlier version of this article was presented at the Fifth Pan-European Conference on EU Politics, Porto, 2010. The author thanks the panel participants and the discussant Madeleine Hosli for useful comments and suggestions. Advice by three anonymous referees of this Journal is also gratefully acknowledged. Supplementary material is available in an online appendix at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps, and the NetLogo simulation model is available for download from www.frankhaege.eu.

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10 The time-period covered does not include the latest accessions of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.

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24 This informal comparison of different theories cannot replace a more rigorous empirical test. However, the discussion points to potential shortcomings of existing accounts and justifies the consideration of new alternatives.

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56 Taking real-world voting weights and multiple voting thresholds into account considerably improves the predictive accuracy in the case of twelve member states but reduces it somewhat in the case of twenty-five member states (but never below a PRE value of 91 per cent). The total PRE value for the entire sample period is hardly affected by these modifications, always ranging between 94 and 96 per cent (see Table A1 and Figures A1–A8 in the online appendix).

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