Negotiation involves strategically addressing an issue in a way that all parties find acceptable. In a negotiation, all parties try to influence and convince the others in accordance with their interests. At the international level, negotiation is a solution-seeking process based on power, and a specific dispute can either be completely resolved or may not be completely resolved by all parties' satisfaction.
As one of the most influential organizations, for the European Union to function, negotiations are crucial. The formation of the union has brought significant effects on the policy-making process. Unlike most of the exclusively state-dominated international organizations, legislation in the European Union is carried out as a political process where power is distributed among institutions. In this sense, there are some differences between EU negotiations and traditional international negotiations. The Member States must influence negotiation processes to be able to shape the formation and implementation of common policies. This 101 series is dedicated to discussing the negotiation process within European Union.
Negotiations within European Union 101 is divided into five chapters:
Negotiations within European Union: Discussion of IGC 2000
Negotiations within European Union 101: Discussion of IGC 2000
The main purpose of the Intergovernmental Conference 2000 was to facilitate the enlargement of the Union. There were four issues: the size of the Council, the weighing of votes, the scope of QMV, and enhanced cooperation. “The IGC 2000 negotiations witnessed a total of 370 official negotiating hours in 30 representatives’ meetings, ten ministerial meetings, and three European Councils” (Gray & Stubb, 2001, p. 5). While preparations started with Finnish Presidency, negotiations continued during the terms of the Portuguese and French Presidencies. Eventually, IGC 2000 gave rise to the Treaty of Nice. However, instead of evaluating the efficiency and content of the IGC 2000 or the Treaty of Nice, this article will analyze the negotiation process of the four issues in light of this 101 series.
The size of the Commission was put on the agenda of IGC 2000 during the Treaty of Amsterdam negotiations. Since the Member States knew that this issue is going to be revisited, the representatives were mostly aware of each other’s intentions, meaning that the negotiations were relatively transparent. However, it remained as a quite sensitive issue since the size of the Commission was closely related to the Member States’ capacity of having an effect within the Union. The size of the Commission was discussed mainly under the French Presidency, which was accused of exploiting its leading position to meet with French national interests. Until the Treaty of Nice, the largest Member States had the right to appoint two Commissioners. There were two options to adjust unequal representation: one Commissioner from each Member State or a smaller Commission on a rotating basis, meaning that some countries might not even have one Commissioner. The smaller Member States constituting the majority favored the first option. However, the French Presidency supported the second option, which was in favor of national interests and prepared the ground for the informal negotiations in Biarritz (Tallberg, 2004, p. 1014). At Biarritz, French Presidency convinced larger states for a smaller and rotational Commission by implying that this will compensate for their loss of one Commissioner. Negotiations turned into a competition between the larger and the smaller, therefore, quickly became more sensitive and entangled. Eventually, the Union agreed to assign one Commissioner per Member State by unanimity. In the end, all Member States were able to claim some success from the deal (Gray & Stubb, 2001, p. 15). As a result of an issue that has been going on for about 3 years, the negotiations on the size of the Commission started problematic, however, concluded with a moderate, reasonable outcome. This was because the sensitivity of the issue led to a turn from hard bargaining to problem-solving, which was discussed in the fourth article of this series.
The weighting of votes became another problematic issue, especially after the larger Member States lost one of their Commissioners. Negotiations were alternating between the double-majority approach with increased emphasis on population, a simple re-weighting approach, and numerous variants between these systems (Gray & Stubb, 2001, p. 15). The issue was discussed both formally and informally. Nevertheless, no consensus was reached after a considerable amount of time since a concession made to a party led to new demands from others. Keeping its’ status equal with that of Germany and sustaining the influence of the larger states after losing one Commissioner were crucial for the French Presidency in terms of national interests. The negotiations were strongly shaped by President Chirac’s resisting Chancellor Schröder’s demand that Germany should now have more votes than France in view of the difference in the population of 22 million – while at the same time proposing, as EU Presidency, that differentiation should apply between other countries (Best, 2001, p. 4). This caused the fear of isolation of among the smaller states and created distrust toward France as the Presidency. The lack of a proper explanation about its discriminative behavior by France raised concerns about whether there is a hidden agenda and also escalated the disagreement between the Netherlands and Belgium. The Netherlands demanded more weight in voting than that of Belgium.
However, considering the Presidency’s discriminative behavior, Belgium stated that this would only be acceptable if France agrees to have less weight than Germany. Spain supported the idea of France having less weight than Germany as well since it wanted to secure a position among the largest states. Witnessing the offer for Spain regarding more votes, Portugal demanded a proportional increase. Finally, France managed to maintain its equal position with Germany, Belgium agreed to have less weight than the Netherlands, Spain could not secure an equal weighting with other large states whereas Portugal managed to obtain more votes. These negotiations regarding re-weighting of votes in the Council are another instance of hard bargaining. The outcome was perceived as a zero-sum game, meaning that one’s gain is the loss of the other. Negotiators, including the Presidency, strongly pursued national interests, leaving no room for compromise. This case confirms the idea that despite the institutionalization and socialization effect in the EU, the importance of national interests remains intact.
The negotiations on extending QMV during the IGC 2000 were another instance that emphasized the differing interests of the Member States. By June 2000, the agreement was that 'a number of constitutional and quasi-constitutional issues intrinsically require unanimity' (Best, 2001, p. 5). At first glance, this might seem like a successful consensus. However, the tendency of the Member States to keep most of the issues under unanimity actually indicates their preference for flexibility in terms of preventing any outcome that contradicts national interests. As a result, the negotiations were based on six issues: social security, taxation, migration, environment, common commercial policy and structural and cohesion funds. Yet, while smaller Member States Like the Netherlands and Finland were in favor of extending QMV, larger states were quite reluctant. In fact, Italy and Germany opted for a policy of silence (Gray & Stubb, 2001, p. 17). The remaining resolutions were blocked by countries like UK and France. As a result, the unanimity rule was kept for most of the key issues. Despite the efforts made to extend the scope of QMV, there was not a significant change in the end.
Enhanced cooperation, a process wherein a limited number of Member States can establish closer cooperation in a specific area, was managed to put on the agenda of IGC 2000 by the Portuguese Presidency. When the French Presidency took over, it stated that it was not going to lead the negotiations in accordance with the steps of the former Presidency, illustrating the difficulty of achieving continuity between presidencies (Gray & Stubb, 2001, p. 11). On the other hand, the negotiations were relatively easier after some point. However, this was because of the lack of a detailed discussion and the informal agreement at Biarritz on the exclusion of sensitive issues such as security policies.
IGC 2000 constitutes a solid example of the negotiation mechanism within the EU, including the key elements. The influence of informal negotiations and national interests is quite visible, especially for the Presidency. As it was explained in the first article of this series, only the state holding Presidency can obtain information regarding the preferences of others since it is responsible for leading and directing the negotiations. Therefore, the Presidency is both preventive and exploitative. During the negotiations, French Presidency resorted to informal negotiations to shape the direction by using state preferences, like in the case of Biarritz. It managed to prevent any negotiation failure, however, the preponderance of French national interests was definitely undeniable. This applies to the other Member States as well. This situation emphasizes the strength of hard bargaining within the Union. Member States adopted a problem-solving approach only as a last resort in order to prevent a negotiation failure, the main focus was not the common interests. Nevertheless, despite many criticisms, this current system seems like it manages to balance out the dynamics most of the time.
Best, Edward. (2001). The Treaty of Nice: Not Beautiful but It’ll Do. Eipascope. 1.
Gray, M., & Stubb, A. (2001). Keynote article: The Treaty of Nice – negotiating a poisoned chalice? JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 39(s1), 5–23. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5965.39.s1.2
Tallberg, J. (2004). The power of the presidency: Brokerage, efficiency and distribution in EU negotiations*. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 42(5), 999–1022. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0021-9886.2004.00538.x
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