Thomas König, Dirk Junge
Why Don’t Veto Players Use Their Power?

European Union Politics, 2009: 10, issue 4, p. 507-534

Why do member states with veto power usually support policy change proposed by a Commission initiative when their own position is located closer to the status quo? Why do we frequently witness consensus in the Council and rarely observe a rejection of Commission initiatives even after additional veto players, such as new member states or the European Parliament, have increased the constraints on policy change by legislative decision-making in the European Union (EU)? To answer these questions, this study investigates the voting preferences and logrolling opportunities of the member states on 48 Commission proposals. We find that models that derive the voting preferences from each Commission initiative are scarcely able to explain the consensus in the Council. One reason is that the Commission attempts to avoid a divided Council by initiating proposals for which member states favour a policy change in the same direction. When member states still dispute the size of policy change, we show that they can find a solution by mutually benefiting from logrolling across proposals that either belong to the same policy domain or are negotiated during the same period. Hence, intertemporal and domain-specific logrolling can provide a powerful explanation for consensus even in a contested Council.