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Challenges to Intergovernmentalism: An Empirical Analysis of EU Treaty Negotiations since Maastricht

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During the last 15 years the nature and process of European treaty reforms changed significantly. The underlying reasons comprise enlargement, a shift of the reform agenda beyond economic coordination and procedural innovations, in particular the invocation of the Convention on the Future of Europe. Against this background, the present article revisits two classic propositions of liberal intergovernmentalism: (1) the power of the largest member states; and (2) the irrelevance of procedural constraints. This analysis compares the positions of national governments at Amsterdam, Nice, and the Constitutional IGC along the two most prevalent dimensions of intergovernmental conflict. Locating the EU treaties in this intergovernmental conflict space, it finds that the reforms of Amsterdam and Nice reflect a sequence of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Both treaty reforms are best understood as minimum compromise between all member states, instead of a deal struck between the most powerful members. However, the Constitutional IGC reveals a slightly different picture as the unanimity win-set for reform has been almost empty. The fact that member states nevertheless signed the Constitutional Treaty hints towards the importance of procedural innovations, in particular the Convention method.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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