The political economy of EU institutions and policy making

This research project will investigate the political economy of European Union institutions and policy making. In concrete, it will investigate the following issues:

Integrated power index analysis of the EU political system. Most power index analyses are based on a single intitution of the EU political system. The Council, the Parliament, or the Commission are analysed separately, in isolation from each other. But frequently, reforms of the decision-making system involve a reweighting of votes inside various institutions simultaneously. They may reduce the voting power of a country in the Council, and reduce its number of commissioners, but increase its number of MEPs. How can we obtain an integrated power index that aggregates all these changes into a single measure of decision-making power?

Empirical analysis of decision making inside institutions such as the ECB, the ECJ or the European Comission. Is there a way we can analize differences in preferences and coalitions empirically if voting inside these institutions is secret? How can we explain these differences? Are they along national or ideological lines?

The impact of Romania in EU policy making, both a priori by means of power index analysis and a posteriori by means of empirical analysis of voting. What is Romania's a priori voting power in the EU taking into account the interaction between the main decision-making institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council)? How often does Romania vote with the majority? Is Romania's success due to its voting power or its centrist preferences?


The formal modelling of the decision making process will be solved computationally. Computational models combine formal rigour (they are based on computer code) with the flexibility to include all kinds of assumptions about the decision-making procedure. Examples of this approach include:

  • D. Varela and J. Prado-Dominguez (2012) 'Negotiating the Lisbon treaty: Redistribution, efficiency and power indices', AUCO Czech Economic Review 6(2): 107-124.
  • J. R. Cancelo, D. Varela and J.M. Sánchez-Santos (2011) 'Interest rate setting at the ECB: Individual preferences and collective decision making', Journal of Policy Modeling 33(6): 804-820.
  • D. Varela (2009) 'Just a lobbyist? The European Parliament and the consultation procedure',European Union Politics 10(1): 7-34.

The empirical testing of hypotheses about preferences inside institutions where voting is secret (such as the ECJ) will be carried out by means of the analysis of variation in their collective decisions under different circumstances (e.g. different composition of judges for different decisions). An example of a this approach is:

  • J.R. Cancelo, D. Varela and J.M. Sánchez-Santos (2011) 'Interest rate setting at the ECB: Individual preferences and collective decision making', Journal of Policy Modeling 33(6): 804-820.

The role of Romania in EU policy making will be measured by means of data-reduction techniques applied to nominal votes in the EP or the Council. An example of a this approach is:

  • Varela, D. (2009). Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union: A spatial analysis of Council voting.The USV Annals of Economics and Public Administration9(2), 300-309.

In the three year period covered by this project there will be one completed doctoral thesis in this topic. Other two doctoral theses will also be initiated. For each doctoral thesis, there will be at least two published articles.