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Euroscepticism and Consensus Politics in the Netherlands

Hans Vollaard

A tradition of power sharing, cooperation seeking, and compromise has made the Netherlands a typical instance of consensus politics. The paper examines whether EU policy-making in the Netherlands still is an instance of consensus politics. It will do so for two reasons. First, a fundamental problem in explaining consensus politics concerns the factors determining its absence and presence. This problem is partly due to the level of analysis in studies of consensus politics. The main scholar of consensus politics, Arend Lijphart, received criticism for his "impressionistic" and "selective" reading of countries' histories when taking countries as units of analysis. Scrutinising individual instances of decision-making allows for a more precise analysis of the origins of consensus politics. Secondly, in consensus politics in EU policy-making is a relatively under-explored issue, while rising Euroscepticism, politicization and the larger involvement of domestic actors in foreign and EU policy exert growing pressure on consensual decision-making. Analysing the impact of Euroscepticism, politicization and domesticization on EU policy-making in the exemplary case of the Netherlands would offer a better understanding of the origins of consensus politics. The paper's empirical focus is on the ratification of EU treaties. It examines whether interparty cooperation in parliament and government has moved away from consensus politics due to domesticization and politicization. We do so by analysing the selection of coalition parties during government formations, coalition agreements and policy memorandums, and portfolio allocation as well as the patterns in parliamentary cooperation between parties in submitting and voting legislative proposals, amendments, and resolutions.

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