Cheap dates and the delusion of gratification: are votes sold or traded in the EU Council of Ministers?
Golub, J. (2012) Cheap dates and the delusion of gratification: are votes sold or traded in the EU Council of Ministers? Journal of European Public Policy, 19 (2). pp. 141-160. ISSN 1466-4429
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2011.599996
Each year, small Member States receive a disproportionate share of the European Union's (EU's) budget. A prominent explanation for this is that Council decision-making involves a healthy dose of vote selling, whereby large Member States offer small states generous fiscal transfers in exchange for influence over policy. But nobody has investigated whether net budget contributors actually get anything for their money. In this paper I identify the vote selling model's observable implications and find virtually no evidence consistent with Council cash-for-votes exchanges. I also show that a compromise model – the leading model of EU decision-making to date – modified to incorporate vote selling does not outperform a standard one that assumes votes are traded rather than sold. Taken together, the results suggest that Council decision-making operates with little or no vote selling, and that regardless of whatever they think they might be buying, net budget contributors get little or nothing in return for their money. These findings call for further investigation into how Member States approach the issue of fiscal transfers, and into the factors other than formal voting weight that affect the power of actors engaged in EU decision-making.