06 September 2005

Why QMV?

Anyone reading the previous piece on the EU textile quotas might by surprised by the bizarreness of the U's "Qualified Majority Voting" rules.
To recap:

Under QMV, a decision needs 232 out of 321 votes, AND a majority of countries, AND countries constituting 62% of EU population.

Where did those numbers come from?

The problem of the EU is that it is not a country, and no-one needs it.

If, say, a bunch of the biggest and richest US states felt like they were being outvoted in the federal government by people who were practically foreigners, it would be enormously difficult for them to just leave - they have 200+ years of history, essential government functions, and the precedent of a failed war of seccession to hold them in.

In the EU, any country could just decide to leave, much more easily. The institutional arrangements have to guarantee the most important members a reasonable say, because the EU can't afford to lose them. At the same time, the EU has to pretend that it is really one country, and that a Slovakian or a Lithuanian is equal in status to a Frenchman or a Dutchman. The method of squaring this circle has been the weighting rules that ensure, on matters of significance, that the important countries can't be overruled by unimportant countries. That was just about possible with 15 members, but now with 25, including the large population of Poland, it's proving near impossible.

Some earlier arguments on the issue here

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