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Bargaining and Distribution of Power in the EU’s Conciliation Committee

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The mean idea of this article is to find out if European Parliament (EP) and Council of Ministers (CM) are equally powerful “co-decision makers”. Since the European Union (EU) has moved towards bicameralism, making the codecision procedure is its most important mechanism for decision making. EP and CM are assumed to have spatial preferences determined by their respective internal decision mechanisms. After applying bargaining theory to predict inter-institutional agreements in the Conciliation Committee, the result turns out that although institutionally the Council and the Parliament are seemingly in a symmetric position, CM has significantly greater influence on EU legislation.

Compromises reached by EP and CM typically are not in line with the ideal policy points of both bodies. Some times they might even be exactly in the middle of their stand point. Because of that, for the ideal point, the player who has a smaller distance to status quo and if there exists any mutually beneficial policy change with reach to an agreement. Even though both Council of Ministers and European Parliament are formally symmetric in the Conciliation Committee, they do have different bargaining positions due to different majority thresholds. Thus, a significant asymmetry has been created in the Conciliation Committee because the Council of Ministers on average are more conservative, which means that they have smaller interest in amending the status quo.

There had been authors since 1997 that did analysis of the Conciliation Committee and the distribution of power. Different authors have different approaches and they come to different conclusions as well. One concluded that both EP and CM “genuinely co-decided which policy to implement” and they had moved towards bicameralism, while another one did modeling using the voting rights of individual members of EP and CM while also assuming that the Council president will make a take-it–or-leave-it offer to EP and concluded that “CM has advantage”.

As time goes by and the law becomes more perfect, I am sure that eventually no matter what, CM and EP will have the same co-decision strength. It is really fascinating to read about how people using models and math to solve a seemingly political situation. I wasn’t expecting that the bargaining and distribution we learned in class can lead to so much more applications.



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