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The Strength of the Rotating Presidency is that it keeps the Presidency Weak

Derek Beach

This paper argues that a relatively weak rotating Presidency is a key factor in explaining efficient Council decision-making. Drawing upon recent advances in the study of informal norms in the Council and leadership theories, this paper first discusses what types of leadership are demanded in the Council. A strong Presidency could in theory provide hegemonic forms of leadership, where the leader exploits strong formal institutional powers and/or great power status to dictate outcomes. Yet given the consensual and long-term iterated game nature of EU decision-making, this form of leadership by fiat would be counterproductive, as all delegations would both fear being exploited and would be loath to compromise, resulting in LCD dynamics. What is demanded in the Council are more consensual forms of instrumental leadership that strengthen the iterated game nature of Council decision-making. In this type of leadership, the leader manages the agenda in an acceptable fashion to all, and finds, formulates and brokers acceptable compromises. Acceptable is not the same as being neutral, and an instrumental leader can exploit its position for private gains, but it cannot be too blatant as it is in more hegemonic forms of leadership. While larger member states (sometimes) believe that their combination of strong material power resources and the formal powers of the Presidency enable them to adopt a more imposing style of leadership, smaller state Presidencies live under no such illusions. Smaller state Presidencies are forced by necessity to 1) adopt a more consensual style of leadership, as they lack the resources to impose their preferred outcomes upon other delegations, and 2) rely more upon the Council Secretariat, as they lack the informational resources necessary to lift the burden of the Presidency.



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