The EU Council enlarged: North-South-East or core-periphery?
This article aims to evaluate the emerging patterns of decision-making in the European Union after the first Eastern enlargement through an analysis of voting positions in the Council of Ministers. By applying three methods (cluster analysis, factor analysis and Bayesian item-response modelling), it assesses the new spatial dimensions of EU policy-making. The results show that the level of open contestation at the Council meetings has risen following enlargement, but the general coalition-building patterns remain similar to the ones in the old EU. The analysis also indicates that it is possible to identify a winning coalition that constitutes the critical mass of the qualified majority of weighted votes for the periods before and after the Eastern enlargement. Furthermore, the size of the largest coalition in relation to the qualified majority threshold becomes smaller in the EU of 25 member states, which may herald a new era of increased policy stability.
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