CEPS proposal on weighting votes in the Council

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A double-majority system with a safety clause could overcome Poland’s request for a square root voting system in the Council, claim Daniel Gros, Sebastian Kurpas and Mika Widgren in a June 2007 paper for the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

It is widely assumed that the Polish government’s insistence on the square-root approach is motivated by the desire to increase its voting power. However, the square-root formula would only make a difference in 1.1-1.3% of all legislative cases, finds the CEPS research. 

Regarding the government’s motives, the paper speculates that Poland is concerned about its voting weight in relation to the larger member states, rather than its voting weight in general – fearing that under the Constitutional Treaty (CT), it would be more likely to find itself in a coalition with smaller member states. However, the research shows that since Poland joined the EU, the countries whose voting patterns have been closest to the Poles are Germany, Belgium, Greece and Italy – two big countries and two small countries. Thus it is difficult to understand the Polish government’s insistence on the square-root approach, the authors assert. 

The CEPS paper concludes by putting forward a simple compromise, in which the new treaty adopts the double-majority system agreed in the CT, but also adds a ‘safety clause’ that would enable any member state to request a recalculation of the votes according to the square- root formula. If the results were different, the proposal would not be adopted immediately. Instead, the authors propose that the Council re-convenes to confirm the decision a second time. The safety clause could only be used during the first two years after the entry into force of the new treaty, and would expire if it had only been invoked rarely during this time, they suggest. 

They believe that such a compromise would preserve the efficiency and transparency of the decision-making process, while also allowing the Polish government to claim victory. 

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