Political Authority within the European Community: The Operation of the Council of Ministers

Sherrington, Philippa J. (1996) Political Authority within the European Community: The Operation of the Council of Ministers. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The Council of Ministers is arguably the most powerful of the EC's institutions, yet its operation still awaits an authoritative analysis. To date, research into the operation of the Council has tended only to deal with aspects of its structure, rather than analysing it as a complete body. Furthermore, there has been little theoretical appreciation of its internal operation, as research has tended to rely on existing methods of analysing EC policy-making. Therefore, a new methodological approach seems to be required which will address this lacuna in EC literature. Whilst the Council of Ministers legislates, it also negotiates. It would seem appropriate then to design a new approach that draws on both policy analysis and negotiation theory.
The analytical framework used material drawn from interviews, and both primary and secondary written sources, to evaluate the day-to-day workings of a number of technical councils that constitute the Council of Ministers. Although there is an information deficit on the work of the Council, the flexible design of the framework allowed valuable insights into its operation. The findings gave some indication of the dynamics of the interactions between member states, which provides a better understanding of EC policymaking.
The Council of Minister's character is influenced by member states. Their attitudes seem to have a strong effect upon the operational mechanisms of the various technical councils The Council may be an EC institution, but it is also the forum in
which member states negotiate, preferring the diplomatic, consensus approach to prescriptive voting methods.

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