Doreen Allerkamp
The Presidency Effect

European Union Studies Association (EUSA) Thirteenth Biennial International Conference, Baltimore, MD, May 09th to May 11th, 2013

In the context of EU decision-making, the focus lies predominantly on rational choice models of decision outcomes among utility maximizing national and institutional players. Some work looks at socialization effects, albeit mainly in the European Commission, the EP and in the COREPER. This paper argues that the Council’s institutional architecture itself contains a feature which can, under certain conditions, lead to changes in those outcomes by creating socialization effects in the incumbent: the Council Presidency. It examines the hypothesis that the rotating Presidency plays an as yet under-examined and underestimated role in determining Council decisions, as successive incumbents face increasing pressure, which begins to build up long before they actually take office, to produce a "successful" Presidency. As "success" in this context has come to mean some (really: any) form of progress towards European integration, Council Presidencies, contrary to traditional expectations, have toned national preferences down rather than up while holding office, going to great lengths to reach (often last minute) agreements in Council meetings, which have become the yardsticks of their performance in office. This phenomenon has amounted to a built-in disciplining measure, causing even Eurosceptic administrations to not only toe the line, but actively work towards more European integration. Presenting results from a series of case studies of supposedly ‘Eurosceptic’ British Council Presidencies across four decades, this paper shows how this effect has grown stronger over time.