Doreen Allerkamp
The Presidency Effect

22nd International Conference of Europeanists, Sciences Po, Paris, July 08th to July 10th, 2015

Every six months, the Presidency of the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers rotates to a different member state (MS), and there is mounting empirical evidence that incumbents “cast significantly fewer negative votes and have a lower propensity to abstain than other governments in the EU“ (Hosli/Mattila/Uriot 2011: 1254; cf. Mattila 2004). This constitutes an empirical puzzle: why do EU member states change voting behavior and even shift policy positions in the run-up to and during their tenure of the Presidency of the Council of Minis-ters? There is no formal requirement attached to the office for the incumbent to do so; more-over, such changes in policy stances often occur ceteris paribus and in defiance of established theoretical expectations based on (power) resources, relative stakeholder positions, issue sa-lience or (other) institutional dynamics. Especially when the incumbent MS holds a minority position, such a change can decisively affect decision outcomes in the Council, and is there-fore well worth examining. This paper identifies the factors associated with the Presidency that can be causally linked to this phenomenon, and the mechanisms through which this hap-pens. The Presidency has evolved from a merely administrative Chair into a key player in EU decision making with responsibility for representation, mediation/brokerage and agenda set-ting. Thus, the paper analyses the impact of the Presidency’s (changing) role(s) in the context of EU governance on the behavior and policy positions of the incumbent MS – the Presidency effect. It draws on empirical evidence from systematically comparative studies of “hard-cases” to test the predictions of this “Presidency effect” (PE) about member state behavior and its consequences for overall decision outcomes. It is intended as a pre-study to prepare the ground for a QCA, which has the potential to include successively larger sets of cases, to identify the set of necessary and sufficient structural, institutional and ideational conditions under which these Presidencies have departed from their previously held positions.