Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - EU COALITIONS/NAURIN (Member states and coalition-building in a wider and deeper European Union)

The purpose of the project has been to contribute with empirical data to a research field -bargaining and coalition-building in the Council of Ministers - which has been suffering from too little data to put into existing theoretical models. The main empirical puzzle for the project has been: Which coalitions of Member States are formed, why and with what consequences? An additional research theme that has been added during the course of the project concerns the mode of communication between member states' representatives. Is the decision-making process in the Council characterised mainly by member states' representatives striking deals in a market-like interaction mode or are decisions mainly the result of an argumentative process where participants try to reach consensus by convincing each other of the merits of their arguments? Special attention has also been given to the effects of the 2004 enlargement on the negotiation system.

In accordance with the objectives, the project has provided empirical evidence on coalition-building and negotiations between member states, both before and after the enlargement of 2004. One survey was conducted in 2003with negotiators from all member states, and a second survey was carried out in February - March 2006. Qualitative interviews with officials at the permanent representations in Brussels will also be used, some of which were made in April 2006. Combining the insights from formal coalition-formation theory with empirical research on actual behaviour will be a highly innovative contribution to the field and will open doors to a deeper theoretical understanding of the negotiation system of the Council.

1) Some Member States are more popular as cooperation partners in the Council of Ministers than others and this ranking seems to be stable over time.
2) There are strong geographical patterns in the choices of cooperation partners, both before and after the 2004 enlargement.
3) In the negotiation process, positions are almost always justified by means of giving reasons. However, only in about half of the cases, maximally, does that mean that arguing (attempts at changing the preferences of ones counterparts by means of reason) is going on.
4) Decisions which require unanimity in the council, i.e. where qualified majority voting is not permitted, are more prone to arguing.
5) Small Member States and new member states try less frequently to convince their counterparts to change their minds by means of arguments, compared to big and old Member States.

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