Researcher Tiia Lehtonen has defended her thesis Small States – Big Negotiations at the European University Institute in Florence. The study examined the impact of the decision-making rule on small state influence in EU Treaty negotiations.

A comparison was made between the Treaty revision methods of  Intergovernmental Conferences and the Convention on the Future of the EU (a novel method, which was used in 2002-03 as an alternative way to negotiate Treaty reforms). This allowed Lehtonen to make a further distinction between the decision-making rules of unanimity (adopted in the IGCs) and restricted consensus (adopted in the Convention).

The study drew comparisons between four small member states: Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Ireland, and their real influence was traced through three substantial issues of institutional reform: the composition of the Commission, the extension of qualified majority voting and the reform of the Council Presidency. In addition, the analysis focused on both informal and formal levels of negotiation dynamics and different modes of interaction and communication.

Lehtonen found that there were roughly three conditions under which small state influence increased in Treaty negotiations. The small states’ interests were best served when: 1) the unanimity decision-making rule was used, and the negotiations took place within the IGC context, 2) the issue was highly salient for the small state in question and its preferences were intensified as a result, and 3) the member state was bound by certain domestic constraints (such as a referendum). In the Convention, the original institutional preferences of small states were not incorporated into the final Treaty as widely as in the IGCs. Moreover, the findings shed new light on factors which, traditionally, have not been deemed to play a significant role in determining small state success. These factors are broadly social and psychological in nature and include interpersonal rapport, human relations, personal qualities of trustworthiness, charisma and overall social skills.

Tiia Lehtonen is a Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and can be contacted by e-mail tiia.lehtonen@upi-fiia.fior by phone + 358 206 111 723. Lehtonen is currently in Florence.

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