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Dimensions of Political Contestation: Voting in the Council of the European Union before the 2004 Enlargement

Keywords: European integration , Council of the European Union , contested votes , coalitionformation , policy dimensions

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Abstract:

Studies of voting patterns in the Council of the European Union (EU) have increased since voting records in this institution have become more readily available. This paper builds on earlier work and explores coalition-formation and voting in the Council of the EU for the EU-15 (i.e., between 1995 and 2004), by analyzing cleavage patterns based on voting records for this institution. Focusing on the pre-enlargement phase, the paper provides new insights into earlier member state voting behavior in the Council on the basis of a range of independent variables, including governments’ absolute and relative positions on the left-right policy dimension, pro-integration sentiments among domestic publics, governments’ positions as either net beneficiaries or net payers into the EU budget and finally, number of votes in the Council. In methodological terms, we treat vote decisions as panel data and report adjusted standard errors for country-based clusters, using ordered probit regression to explain the prope nsity of EU member states to vote ‘yes’, abstain from voting, or vote ‘no’ in the Council. The ordered probit analysis used to explore the potential relevance of these dimensions provides insights that at times confirm, but also partially contradict, earlier findings on this topic. We notably find strong evidence for a North-South cleavage pre-enlargement, a significant role for the Presidency and moderate evidence for the relevance of public opinion and government left-right positioning in Council voting behavior.

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