FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VoteWatch Europe study:
Council of the EU: UK and Germany vote against each other most often
Brussels, 11 June 2014
Against the background of the debates concerning the nomination of the next European Commission President by the European Council, a study undertaken by VoteWatch Europe shows that among the 28 EU Member States, the United Kingdom and Germany have voted against each other most often in the EU Council of Ministers. Data collected by VoteWatch Europe in the period July 2009 – May 2014 illustrates that these two countries have disagreed on 16% of the formal votes cast in the Council.
The disagreements emerged mainly on issues regarding constitutional affairs, foreign policy, agriculture, budget and employment.
Voting in the Council
In the constitutional affairs field, Germany supported legislative pieces such as a Regulation on the citizens' initiative or a Regulation on the mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission's exercise of implementing powers, while the UK abstained from voting on them.
When it comes to budget legislation, the differences were sharper. For example, while Germany voted in favour of the new draft budget of the EU for 2013 in December 2013, the UK voted against (alongside Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands).
On issues regarding the EU’s foreign policy, the two countries voted differently on pieces of legislation such as the Regulation establishing an Instrument contributing to stability and peace as well as on the Regulation establishing a European Neighbourhood Instrument (the UK voted against in both cases, while Germany voted in favour).
These two big EU countries are also the ones who have found themselves in minority most often when voting in the Council. The UK government was in minority by far most frequently, voting differently than the majority on 73 occasions, out of 629 votes it participated in (12%), while the German government did so in 37 out of 663 votes (5.5%).
Election of the President of the Commission in the Council
The European Council nominates the President of the European Commission by qualified majority (QMV). QMV is reached if a majority of Member States (15) vote in favour and if a minimum of 260 votes, out of the total 352, are cast in favour.
In qualified majority voting, each Member State has a certain number of votes. The weighting of votes is set out in the treaties and reflects the size of population of each Member State. Both Germany and the United Kingdom have 29 votes each. See here the weighting of votes in the Council.
Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009, a new element entered the discussion on the election of the European Commission President. The Treaty on European Union states that the European Council, taking into account the elections to the EP, shall propose (by QMV) to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the European Commission. In this context, five European political parties (EPP, PES, ALDE, the Greens and the Party of the European Left) chose their own candidates (Spitzenkandidaten) for the European Commission Presidency. The EPP won the greatest number of seats, which put former Luxembourg’s Primer Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, their lead candidate, in the position to be considered as a candidate for the post.
Jean-Claude Juncker received the backing of the EP’s Conference of Presidents to start negotiations to seek a majority in the European Parliament. However, in spite of the wide support received from the Parliament (all EP groups except ECR and EFD), the European Council, at its informal meeting on 27 May 2014, did not back Juncker to start negotiations.
According to media reports, apart from the backing of the EP groups, Juncker can also count on several EU governments, his most prominent supporter being Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. Moreover, Juncker counts not only on the support of Christian-Democrat governments, but also from the Austrian and Romanian socialist governments.
However, the support received might not be enough to secure a winning majority by QMV in the European Council, as some Member States, led by UK, oppose the idea of nominating one of the Spitzenkandidaten, questioning the legal basis of the EP involvement in the process of selecting the European Commission President. The UK, Sweden and Hungary have publicly stated their opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker and/or the Spitzenkandidaten process. The Netherlands and Italy are thought to be sceptical. Together these countries wield enough votes in Council to block Juncker.
The nominee for European Commission President is likely to be agreed at the 26-27 June 2014 European Council meeting. The European Parliament is expected to approve or reject this proposal at the 14-17 July 2014 Plenary session.
For media inquiries please contact Elisa Irlandese at VoteWatch Europe: +32 2 318 1188. Email: email@example.com
Note on Council votes:
VoteWatch Europe has collected data on the voting records of all 28 EU member state governments in the Council from July 2009 to the present (more than 500 final votes as at April 2014). It should be noted that the Council currently releases information only on final votes, at ministerial level, on legislative and budgetary issues. For this reason, the data presented on this website is limited to these decisions.
The VoteWatch.eu website shows all legislation passed by the Council; how each government has voted on each piece of legislation; who voted on behalf of that government; as well as more detailed information about the dossier (Council configurations in which it was debated and voted on, number of readings, working groups involved in preparing the legislation, etc.). The data is aggregated to produce statistics on coalition patterns between Member States, to compare, pair-wise, how frequently governments voted against each other, and whether or not individual governments often find themselves in a minority.
The Council voting data is compared to votes on the same piece of legislation in the European Parliament, which allows users to see, for example, to what extent the policy preferences of a government were followed by MEPs from the governing party or coalition.
We publish new Council voting data as soon as it becomes available. It is collected manually from the Council website (minutes, fiches de vote and summaries of legislative acts), PreLex and the EU’s Who-is-Who. We also use data from ParlGov for the dates and the party-political composition of EU governments. As the Council does not publish all of its information immediately following the vote, it can take some time for full information on a vote to be available on this website. As long as votes are processed manually, errors may occur. We will correct any errors as soon as we are made aware of them.
VoteWatch Europe is an independent organisation set up to promote better debates and greater transparency in EU decision-making, by providing easy access to, and analysis of, the votes and other activities of the European Parliament (EP) and the EU Council of Ministers (Council). VoteWatch uses the EU Institutions' own attendance, voting and activity data - available through their websites - to give a full overview of MEP and Member State activities.
Using sophisticated statistical methods developed by political scientists from the London School of Economics and New York University, the website covers the activities of Parliament and Council since 2009. (Parliament statistics dating back to 2004 are also available on the website). Information on the EP is updated daily following each voting session. Council votes are updated as and when voting data is made available by the Council secretariat.
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