Deciding the Future of the European Union: Preference Formation and Treaty Reform


The Convention on the Future of the Europe was a unique event in the history of the European Communities, but, although much has been written about its deliberations, about the Convention as a method of treaty reform, and about the merits and otherwise of the Constitutional Treaty, little attention has been paid so far to the processes by means of which governments (and EU institutions) decide their preferences with respect to the nature of the Union. This article considers how the member states form their preferences, exploring through a critical appraisal of the most elaborate theory of preference formation available — that provided by liberal intergovernmentalism (LI) — the influences on those processes. After a provisional critique of LI, it proposes alternative lines of enquiry about how EU states identify what they want, and summarizes the findings of country studies.

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We should like to thank participants of the conference, held at Birkbeck, University of London on 14–15 November 2003, including Mark Aspinwall, Simon Bulmer, Marie-Pierre Granger, Jack Hayward, Simon Hix, Andrew Moravcsik and Edward C. Page, for two days of very stimulating discussion. The contributors to this special issue attended both the conference of 14–15 November 2003 and a second workshop on 11–12 June 2004, and we should like to express our gratitude to them for making the events so successful. The project would not have been possible without funding from the ESRC under its Future Governance programme and the British Academy (Award BCG-35160), which we duly acknowledge. Thanks are also due to David Hine for proposing, organizing and hosting the second workshop, and to the Centre for the Study of Democratic Government of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University Oxford for the award of a small grant to finance it. Dionyssis G. Dimitrakopoulos gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by the Faculty of Arts, Birkbeck College. We are grateful to the participants of both workshops for their useful comments, the referees for their recommendations about how the text could be improved, and to the contributors for the cooperation and openness to suggestions. Finally, we should like to thank the Editors of the journal for their encouragement, and Emma Jones and Emma Ross at Palgrave for their patience, help and good humour. All errors remain, of course, our own.

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Dimitrakopoulos, D., Kassim, H. Deciding the Future of the European Union: Preference Formation and Treaty Reform. Comp Eur Polit 2, 241–260 (2004).

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  • preference formation
  • treaty reform
  • liberal intergovernmentalism
  • Moravcsik
  • the Convention on the Future of Europe
  • institutionalism