International Organization


In the Shadow of the Vote? Decision Making in the European Community

Jonathan Golub


Scholarship on the European Community (EC) focuses particular attention on how formal voting rules and institutional reform condition decision-making outcomes. The predominant view of EC history holds that decision making remained paralyzed until institutional reforms in 1987 and 1992 restored and expanded adherence to majority voting rules, which in turn unblocked and expedited EC legislative efforts. In this study I challenge these fundamental assumptions using comprehensive data for 1974–95 and a series of quantitative assessments, including event history analysis. I show that decision making in the 1970s was anything but paralyzed, that the impact of the Luxembourg Compromise has been greatly overstated, that institutional reforms actually encumbered rather than eased the EC legislative process, and that institutional effects are mediated by the underlying distribution of member state preferences. The findings have important implications for our understanding of the history and future trajectory of European integration and highlight the applicability of standard political science theories and methods to the study of the EC.

Jonathan Golub is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics, University of Reading, Reading, UK. He can be reached at