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Monday, June 02, 2014

The battle for a blocking minority: How do you stop a careering Junckernaut?

Not reflective of all EU opinion?
David Cameron is not without allies in his battle to stop Jean-Claude Juncker becoming President of the European Commission but are there enough votes to block him?

Well firstly, although the European parliament has a veto - it is the European Council (the member states) that first need to propose a candidate. David Cameron's best bet to block Juncker is therefore to form a blocking minority under so-called Qualified majority Voting (QMV) in the European Council. Here is how the votes stack up.

Under the current rules each of the 28 EU members is assigned a number of votes (the UK has 29). A smallest blocking minority weighs in at 93 votes. The European Council has its own calculator here allowing you to simulate the votes.

At the moment there are three states certain to attempt to block Juncker. The UK (29 votes), Sweden (10 votes) and Hungary (12 votes). They therefore have only 51 votes - 42 votes short.

There area a number of ways the remaining votes could be made up - the Netherlands (13 votes) is reportedly wary of Juncker, but it is increasingly clear that another big state needs to join the UK. Italy's Matteo Renzi isn't overly keen and France might try to play poker to get its own candidate in a key position, at Juncker's expense. Both Italy and France have 29 votes - one of them would be enough to muster a blocking minority.

Composition of possible blocking minorities under QMV

While there is a small club of avowed Juncker enthusiasts including Poland, Spain, Austria and Ireland, the majority of member states are likely hedging their bets and will go with the prevailing wind. The key point to remember is that the debate over the post of Commission President is part of a wider debate about the make-up of the next Commission so individual member states' positions on Juncker will also be largely determined by their prospects for other key portfolios.

Also, it's very rare that EU leaders actually vote - the prevailing form of decision-making in the European Council (formally and informally) is unanimity. Merkel will want to give the impression of consensus. Having Cameron outvoted - and publicly humiliated - would rank as one of the most dramatic events in the EU in recent memory. 

This remains anyone's game.   


Jesper said...

It might be a good idea to also list the portfolios ranked in order of importance and then also have a list of countries with number of votes. Looking at one portfolio in isolation might not provide a clear view.

All things being equal then the country with the most votes would get the most important portfolio. Since some countries have better negotiators than others there will be some differences. If president is the most important position, then it seems strange that a country with so few votes would get it. Would be an amazing coup :-)

Denis Cooper said...

If Cameron is really serious about renegotiation then he will need treaty change, and as it is the governments of the member states who have the final word on changing their treaties it would make very little difference who was the President of the EU Commission. Like the MEPs the President of the EU Commission might try to obstruct treaty change, but the governments could sweep their objections aside. So the fact that Cameron is getting het up about this can only mean one of two things: either he does not anticipate achieving any treaty changes and wants it to be easier to get some minor changes through secondary legislation, or he is just playing to his domestic audience, especially with the Newark by-election on Thursday.

Average Englishman said...

@Denis Cooper
Interesting assessment Denis.
Either way all of this is just huff and puff by Dave because he knows that he cannot make any real changes worth talking about. Some may call it spin; I would call it simple deceit at best, lying to the electorate at worst. And then we hear MP's bleat about how unloved they are by their electorate; quelle surprise!

Anonymous said...

Or the UK could simply escape the EUSSR, regain its democracy, and leave the Eurofascists to it.