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Legislative Activity and Gridlock in the European Union

  • Christophe Crombez and Simon Hix

This article develops a game-theoretical model of European Union (EU) policy making that suggests that the amount of legislative activity depends on the size of the gridlock interval. This is consistent with Krehbiel's study of US politics. This interval depends on two factors: (1) the preference configuration of the political actors and (2) the legislative procedures used in a particular period. Actors’ preferences and procedures are not expected to have any effect beyond their impact on the gridlock interval. The study predicts smaller gridlock intervals, and thus more legislative activity, under the co-decision (consultation) procedure when the pivotal member states and the European Parliament (Commission) are closer to each other. More activity is expected under qualified majority voting in the Council than under unanimity. The results find support for these propositions in an empirical analysis of EU legislative activity between 1979 and 2009.

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Professor of Political Economy, University of Leuven, and Consulting Professor, Stanford University (email:; Professor of European and Comparative Politics, London School of Economics and Political Science (email: We would like to thank Frank Häge, Simon Hug, Thomas König, Keith Krehbiel and Robert Thomson for comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the article. Online appendices and data replication sets are available at

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