EU Council of Ministers (EU), Voting by
Should all remaining areas of unanimous decision-making be replaced by majority decision making in the European Union’s Council of Ministers?
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Qualified Majority Voting has been adopted on many issues in the past. On each such occasion EU deci...
Qualified Majority Voting has been adopted on many issues in the past. On each such occasion EU decision making has been stream-lined and made much more effective. In those areas where we already have provision for qualified majority voting it has worked well. There is still an ingrained disposition to try to seek consensus, and much effort is expended to ensure that decisions are as acceptable as possible to as many states as possible. There is therefore nothing to fear from an abolition of unanimity and much to gain in terms of increased effectiveness.
There are already many areas which are decided by majority voting. Those which are still decided by unanimity are very sensitive areas, which for valid reasons of national interest are protected from majority decision. For example, it would be entirely inappropriate for a member state to be forced into making a foreign policy decision – especially one that involved the commitment of armed forces – by other member states. Not only are there outstanding questions of national sovereignty, but equally significant issues of differences between member states, caused for example by some states’ long-held position of foreign policy neutrality (e.g. Ireland, Finland, Sweden).
With twenty five member states, and the possible accession of three more states in the next decade, ...
With twenty five member states, and the possible accession of three more states in the next decade, the EU is now too big to function on the basis of unanimity. Council meetings are already long enough; to require the unanimous consent of over twenty national governments would be to paralyse the EU. For the sake of effectiveness member states should adopt the procedure of majority voting for all decisions.
If decisions on matters of the utmost national significance take longer because of enlargement then so be it. Some issues – such as foreign policy, immigration and tax – should remain firmly in the competence of nation-states. The diplomats of each member state do a great job already in resolving many matters before they even come to Council.
Increasingly, the problems facing Europe’s nation-states are of a cross-border nature – internationa...
Increasingly, the problems facing Europe’s nation-states are of a cross-border nature – international crime, the environment, immigration and the international economy all undermine a nation-state’s ability to act alone. Therefore, it is in the interests of every member state to combine together and confront problems collectively. An obvious consequence of such trends is that states should be willing to adopt more cooperative (i.e. majoritarian) forms of decision making rather than cling to out-dated procedures involving unanimity. The inevitable logic of globalisation propels EU member states towards majority voting.
The problems of international crime, the environment and immigration may well affect every member state, but member states quite reasonably differ in their attitudes to these problems and, more importantly, in the actions they are willing to take against them. There are genuine disagreements about, say, immigration and asylum policy and it should be permissible for member states to express these divergent opinions and to implement divergent national policies accordingly. It is wrong to extrapolate from the recognition that these are common problems to the conclusion that states must be forced to adopt common strategies to combat them.
When the EU acts collectively it can be a real world superpower. In the area of international trade,...
When the EU acts collectively it can be a real world superpower. In the area of international trade, which is an area of the closest cooperation between member states, the EU presents itself as a meaningful rival to the USA. It is only by relinquishing long-held notions of narrow, national interests and embracing the concept of a united European interest that EU member states can punch above their individual weight on the world stage. Majority decisions should thus extend to the last, most sensitive and protected areas of unanimous decision making, such as foreign policy and defence.
We neither want the EU to be a superpower, nor think it possible even if we did. We want each member state to retain its unique identity in international affairs; we do not want member states engulfed in the tides of a Leviathan EU super-state. We accept that the member states can achieve more in the international economy if they agree to bargain from a common position. We do not accept that this entails the extension of majority decision making into areas in which it has historically been extremely difficult to find a consensual common interest. There are too many differences of opinion between member states to permit a more majoritarian approach to foreign policy, and too many differences in both budgetary and strategic decision making to permit a genuinely common defence posture.
There are strong economic and political arguments for removing national vetoes over decisions on tax...
There are strong economic and political arguments for removing national vetoes over decisions on taxation. At present the different tax regimes operating in member states prevent the completion of a true Single Market across the EU as they distort the market. Companies invest and locate in an attempt at tax avoidance, rather than on true economic grounds. Citizens of one member state use another as a tax haven. Smugglers profit from the differences in duty on goods such as petrol, cigarettes and alcohol. Unchecked, unfair tax competition will force everyone into a 'race to the bottom' and wreck governments' ability to fund the European social model.
Power over taxation levels is an essential element of national sovereignty; taxes are usually the most important issue in national elections. If the veto power is removed in this area then the EU will truly have become a federal government rather than a collective of nation-states. Not only would this be very unpopular with individual citizens of all the member states, it would also be bad for the EU's economic future. Competition between different fiscal systems is necessary; it forces governments to act responsibly for fear of losing investment, and allows experimentation and comparisons between different fiscal models, out of which new best practice may arise. If the EU harmonises taxes, overall tax levels will inevitably rise and the EU as a whole will be less able to compete at an international level.
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