Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

December 9th, 2003


Although the formation of an EU constitution has been out of the headlines for a while now, the process is still slowly churning along. Compromises have already been made on the number of commissioners with voting rights, and there well may be a few more fudges towards the end.

The big sticking point is that of voting weights in the Council of Ministers. Spain and Poland want to retain their disproportionately large voting power rather than the double majority rule in the proposed constitution. The double majority is a majority of member states (giving small members disproportionate say) representing at least 60% of the EU population.

The double majority is easy to understand and has a nice symmetry to it. Large member states can’t push through legislation without support of over half of the states, and the elected governments representing at least 60% of the population must agree with it. This is on top of getting agreement from the directly elected European Parliament.

The current Council voting system (from the treaty of Nice) is not based on any logic, it was simply the result of negotiation. There’s no justification for the rules: Spain has more votes than its population would suggest because, well, its Spain.

Most of the (considerable) mistakes that are made in the EU are blamed on “Brussels” (meaning the Commission, although in practise often implicating the European Parliament). This voting mess that Spain and Poland are trying to retain is a classic example of what having Nation States fighting for their own interests means. The ridiculus and expensive commute of the whole European Parliament to Strasbourg is another.

If the members of European Union want the institutions of the Union to be taken seriously then they need to be willing to set them up in a sensible and understandable fashion. The constitution doesn’t go as far as it should on this front, but its a lot better than the current arrangement. I’m hoping that the other member states stick to their guns on this one and retain the double majority.

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Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

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