Decision-making in the European Union's Council of Ministers
This thesis presents a theory of voting behaviour for the governments represented in the European Union's Council of Ministers and analyses a large original data set covering all legislation adopted by the EU from 1999 to 2004. It argues that the governments' voting behaviour is dominated by party political preferences rather than national preferences over EU integration issues. The already very elaborate EU policies and processes for adopting laws mean that most issues related to decisions on the degree of integration are solved outside the Council. Instead, decision-making in the Council is over actual policy content and the level of regulation. Consequently, the governments negotiate over possible policy outcomes along the traditional left/right political dimension. In addition to presenting the actors in the Council as political parties rather than national representatives, the thesis argues that the governments act strategically rather than sincerely when deciding how best to pursue their policy preferences. The Council members consider their possibilities for influencing new legislation as dictated by their voting power, and voting behaviour is the result of strategic estimations of when support or disagreement needs to be voiced, and how. Empirically, the prediction is a difference between left- and right-wing governments and, within this policy space, between small- and large member states. The theory is tested in a series of multivariate analyses and geometrical scaling methods. A range of alternative hypotheses from the literature is included in each of the empirical tests. The evidence supports the theory: Legislative politics in the Council take place within a one-dimensional policy space, and each of the Council members' ideal policy points are found to be aligned with their preferences over left/right political issues in the domestic sphere. Furthermore, the member states that experienced a change in government during this period similarly changed their voting behaviour in the Council, indicating that EU politics are indeed a party political matter. When taking into account also the governments' voting power, larger Council members in the opposition are generally more likely to oppose the majority than smaller members. However, smaller members frequently use the option of making formal statements following a vote as a mean of voicing disagreement. The findings are robust across different stages of the legislative process as well as most policy areas, although a variance in magnitude appears.