Department of Political Science

Consensus and Isolation in the EU Council of Ministers

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  • Sandrino Smeets, Radboud Univ Nijmegen, Radboud University Nijmegen, Inst Management Res
When and how are member states in a small minority or isolated position able to prevail in the EU Council of Ministers? The Council is known for its ability to avoid vetoes and votes. However, we lack a causal mechanism that explains how such a consensus is commonly reached. We argue that while domestic and normative constraints are necessary elements of an explanation of negotiating success, they are insufficient to solve the puzzle of isolation. We claim that success in isolation depends on the ability to avoid exposure at Council level, which in turn is related to the lower levels’ effectiveness in preventing matters from reaching the ministers. We test this conjecture by means of a process tracing analysis of three cases of isolation. By analysing how the Council has dealt with situations of twenty-six against one, we come closer to understanding the internal dynamics behind the consensus-reflex.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Integration
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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