What is Really at Stake in the Debate over Votes?

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EIPAScope, Vol: 2004, Issue: 1, Page: 14-23

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Edward. Best
article description
The December 2003 Brussels summit failed to agree on the draft Constitution for the EU which had been proposed by the European Convention. Spain and Poland rejected the proposal to move from the new voting arrangements agreed at Nice, which were still based mainly on weighted votes, to a system in which decisions could be adopted by a simple majority of states representing 60% of total population. The Nice arrangements are unnecessarily complex, whereas the dual majority is simpler and more efficient. Moreover, Spain and Poland have a special interest. They are very favourably treated under Nice, but are relative losers, compared to Germany and small states, in any move to a dual majority. Yet these countries’ weighting under Nice is not quite so disproportionate or inappropriate as is alleged, taking into account the characteristics of the EU system. Moreover, there are broader issues at stake. Does the EU still need weighted votes in order to maintain a balance between states? Are EU citizens ready for a system based largely on relative population? The best outcome on balance is to move to a dual majority, but only in November 2009 as proposed in the draft Constitution. This is not optimal from the perspective of efficiency. However, the EU can make use of this time to digest enlargement, establish its limits more clearly and conduct a more serious public debate, before introducing what would indeed be a major shift in the underlying premises of its institutional arrangements.