Enduring Federal Consensus: An Institutionalist Account of Belgian Preferences regarding the Future of Europe

Abstract

This article seeks to examine whether the new Constitution-making process had an impact on the domestic patterns of preference formation in Belgium. The analysis is conducted from an institutionalist perspective, which assumes that the Convention rules would create new opportunities, but that pre-existing domestic institutions would prove persistent, putting constraints on the extent to which opportunities could be exploited. By using the institutionalist approach, the article aims to assess the liberal intergovernmentalist account of preference formation. It argues that Belgian preferences and preference formation procedures with respect to the Future of Europe debate demonstrate considerable continuity against a background of enduring pro-European consensus with the federal government enjoying wide autonomy. At the same time, the existence of multiple transnational networks and in particular the role of the Convention vice-president challenge the liberal intergovernmentalist account. Since both factors can be explained from an institutionalist perspective, the article concludes that institutionalism is a useful complement to liberal-intergovernmentalism in the search for a comprehensive understanding of national preference formation.

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Bursens, P. Enduring Federal Consensus: An Institutionalist Account of Belgian Preferences regarding the Future of Europe. Comp Eur Polit 2, 339–357 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.cep.6110040

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Keywords

  • European integration
  • preference formation
  • Belgium
  • institutionalism
  • liberal intergovernmentalism
  • Convention