Department of Political Science

The strength of the rotating Presidency is that it keeps the Presidency weak

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  • Department of Political Science

One of the most important justifications for the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon was that the introduction of a fixed President of the European Council would result in a more efficient Europe. During the negotiations serious attempts were made to strengthen the Presidency at the Council of Ministers level, including proposals to allow the European Council President to chair the General Affairs Council. Underlying these reform efforts is the argument that the Presidency as an institution is unable to supply effective leadership, and in particular that smaller member states are manifestly unable to lift the burdens of the Presidency in an enlarged Union.

            Yet is the Presidency broken? Should further efforts be made to reform the Presidency institution? Contrary to the popular wisdom, this paper questions the basic premise underlying the reform efforts by providing evidence that while the powers possessed by the Presidency are relatively weak, it is the very weakness of the Presidency that makes it an effective leader. Drawing upon recent advances in the study of informal norms in the Council and leadership theories, this paper first discusses what types of leadership are demanded in the Council. It is argued that given the consensual and long-term iterated game nature of EU decision-making, consensual forms of leadership are the most effective at achieving maximum possible gains from cooperation. In this type of leadership, the leader manages the agenda in an acceptable fashion to all, and finds, formulates and brokers acceptable compromises. Acceptable is not the same as being neutral, and an instrumental leader can exploit its position for private gains, but it cannot be too blatant as it is in more hegemonic forms of leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Publication year2008
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventUACES Annual Conference - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sep 20083 Sep 2008


ConferenceUACES Annual Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom

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