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Fair Reweighting of the Votes in the EU Council of Ministers and ..

Dennis Leech

CSGR Working Paper no. 75/01

June 2001



This paper examines the system of Qualified Majority Voting, used by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, from the perspective of enlargement of the Union. It uses an approach based on power indices due to Penrose, Banzhaf and Coleman to make two analyses: (1) the question of the voting power of member countries from the point of view of fairness, and (2) the question of how the majority quota required for QMV should be determined. It studies two scenarios for change from 2005 onwards envisaged by the Nice Treaty: (1) no enlargement, the EU comprising 15 member countries, and (2) full enlargement to 27 members by the accession of all the present twelve candidates. The proposal is made that fair weights be determined algorithmically as a technical or routine matter as the membership changes. The analysis of how the quota affects power shows the trade-offs that countries face between their blocking power and the power of the Council to act. The main findings are: (1) that the weights laid down in the Nice Treaty are close to being fair, the only significant discrepancies being the under representation of Germany and Romania, and the over representation of Spain and Poland; (2) the majority quota required for a decision is set too high for the Council of Ministers to be an effective decision making body.

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