Coalition Building and Consensus in the Council of the European Union


Although qualified-majority voting is possible, member states in the Council of the European Union (EU) still adopt most policies by consensus. The agent-based model of coalition building in multilateral negotiations presented here addresses this puzzle. The model demonstrates that consensual decisions may emerge as an unintended by-product of government representatives’ desire to form blocking coalitions. A qualitative case study demonstrates the plausibility of the model’s assumptions and resulting coalition-building dynamics. Moreover, a quantitative test shows that the model’s predictions correspond closely to the observed consensus rates. Finally, computational experiments predict a positive effect of the voting threshold but no effect of increases in membership on winning coalition size, which has important practical implications for institutional design and enlargement policy.

British Journal of Political Science 43(3): 481-504
Frank M. Häge
Frank M. Häge
Political Scientist

Senior Lecturer at the University of Limerick. Interested in Legislative Politics, European Union Politics, and Historical Political Economy.