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Negotiations in the European Union: Who Wins When, and Why?

Susan Fuchs

The decisions and policies that emerge from the European Union (EU) are often the result of negotiations, both between member states in the Council of Ministers, and between the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament. Thus, in order to understand why the EU pursues a particular course of action or establishes a certain policy, it is useful to examine the preceding negotiations, and consider the positions of negotiating parties. Using the case of the Stability and Growth Pact, this paper will demonstrate why negotiations under different circumstances, and the resultant policies, can be expected to favour, and reflect the positions of some parties more than others. First, it will argue that a crucial element of negotiations is whether their purpose is to establish a EU policy or reform it. It will then highlight differences between the original and reform phase of negotiations, and explain why these differences necessitate the use of distinct bargaining resources to influence outcomes in each phase. Finally, this paper draws the conclusion that, in the original policymaking phase of negotiations, the most important bargaining resource is a good alternative to negotiated agreement, while the reform phase favours participants with high levels of information, bargaining skill and expertise.

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