Department of Political Science

Oiling the wheels of compromise: The role and impact of the Council Secretariat in EU intergovernmental negotiations

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearch

  • Department of Political Science
The EU’s Council Secretariat plays a central but overlooked role in helping EU governments. In the following a theory of delegated leadership is developed that argues that EU governments are often dependent upon ‘leadership’ by the Secretariat to help them translate vaguely defined governmental preferences into an actual contractual agreement. Drawing on the assumption of bounded rationality, it is posited that EU intergovernmental negotiations are not inherently ‘efficient’, meaning that high bargaining costs and bargaining impediments can prevent the achievement of mutually acceptable agreements. In these highly complex intergovernmental negotiations there is often a strong demand among governments for the provision of leadership to increase the ‘efficiency’ of the negotiations. Governments in the Council and Presidencies often have incentives to informally delegate certain leadership functions to the Secretariat, as it usually possesses the necessary combination of 1) informational resources and 2) the trust and acceptance of governments to supply effective leadership. But by supplying leadership, the Secretariat becomes more than a mere facilitator of agreement, and is in certain circustances that are detailed in the following, it is able to exploit this position to skew outcomes closer to its own preferences. The theory is applied to four cases of intergovernmental bargaining in the Council: the 1996-97 and 2003-4 IGCs, second pillar debates on CFSP funding in 2005, and the creation of Eurojust within the third pillar. The cases find that the Secretariat played a key role in ensuring efficient outcomes, but it was also able to skew outcomes in a pro-Council, pro-integrative and legalistic direction, although within the limits set by the need to maintain the trust and acceptance of its principals (governments).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIkke angivet
Number of pages46
PublisherDepartment of Political Science, University of Aarhus
Publication year2006
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventWho Governs in the Council of Ministers, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute - Firenze, Italy
Duration: 19 May 200620 May 2006


ConferenceWho Governs in the Council of Ministers, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

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