The Use of Coercive Threats in EU Intergovernmental Negotiations

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  • EU政府間交渉における威圧的な脅し
  • EU セイフ カン コウショウ ニ オケル イアツテキ ナ オドシ

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The EU is a regional community in which the member states cooperate closely. According to the literature on EU negotiations, threats or coercive tactics, apart from the use of the veto, are seldom used, since the member states normally seek a consensus, with particular focus on the maintenance of cooperative relations.<br> However, a close look at EU intergovernmental negotiations reveals that threats, in the form of depriving or damaging the interests of the target government, have occasionally been used to obtain compliance. Notably, however, there is no evidence that the relationships between the threatening and the threatened states have deteriorated in consequence. This paper aims to uncover the conditions under which threats can be used effectively as a bargaining means to elicit concessions from other states, but without endangering the relationship between the governments involved. To this end, this paper examines three cases in which coercive threats were indeed employed: the IGC 2000 negotiations on the size of the Commission, the Irish problem of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, and the 2003–4 Constitutional Treaty negotiations on the definition of Qualified Majority Voting.<br> On the basis of the empirical findings from analysing the three cases, this paper sheds light on the significance of a set of conditions which allow certain member states to resort to the use of threats. First, the size of the country matters. Only three large states—Germany, France and the UK—can play a leading role in instigating threats. Second, the threats have to be used in conformity with the general objectives of the negotiations. Employing threats, despite its forceful nature, can be justified if the aim of the threats is to achieve the stated objectives of the negotiations. Third, the effect of threats can be enhanced if a threatening state offers some kind of return to the threatened states for making concessions. Returns of some sort can make it easier for the threatened states to make concessions. Fourth, threats should be used as credibly as possible. Otherwise the threatened governments can dismiss the feasibility of the threats and go their own way. These conditions, taken together, can further the chances of successfully threatening other governments without bringing about severely adverse effects on the relationship between the governments involved.


  • International Relations

    International Relations 2014 (177), 177_127-177_141, 2014


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