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What determines EU decision making? Needs, power or both?


  • Heikki Kauppi
  • Mika Widgrén


type="main" xml:lang="en"> This paper examines the determinants of power in the Council of the European Union. It argues that quantitative power indices stemming from voting theory provide a good description of the actual distribution of power among EU members. Of course, we cannot directly verify the accuracy of such indices since it is impossible to measure power directly. Instead, we evaluate whether these power measures explain a quantifiable manifestation of the exercise of power, namely members’ shares of EU budget allocation. As an alternative explanation of the EU budget, we also consider a ‘needs view’ of the budget, where members’ allocations are determined by principles of solidarity. Our empirical analysis is based on 1976–2001 data on the patterns of the EU budget shares and on measures of each member state's needs and political power. Our results indicate that at least 60% of the budget expenditures can be attributed to selfish power politics and the remaining 40% to the declared benevolent EU budget policies. However, when we apply specific voting power measures that allow correlated preferences and cooperative voting patterns between the member states, our estimates indicate that the power politics view can explain as much as 90% of the budget shares. We conclude that power politics can explain a major part of the Council decisions and that correlated preferences and voting cooperation between EU countries potentially play significant roles in EU decision making. — Heikki Kauppi and Mika Widgrén

Suggested Citation

  • Heikki Kauppi & Mika Widgrén, 2004. "What determines EU decision making? Needs, power or both?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 19(39), pages 221-266, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecpoli:v:19:y:2004:i:39:p:221-266

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