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Constitutional agenda-setting through discretion in rule interpretation: why the European Parliament won at Amsterdam

Hix, Simon (2002) Constitutional agenda-setting through discretion in rule interpretation: why the European Parliament won at Amsterdam. British Journal of Political Science, 32 (2). pp. 259-280. ISSN 1469-2112

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Abstract

It is a widely accepted that the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam significantly increased the powers of the European Parliament (EP). The critical question, however, is why the European Union (EU) governments did this. I argue, contrary to existing explanations, that these changes came about because the EP was a ‘constitutional agenda-setter’. The rules in the EU Treaty, as established at Maastricht, were incomplete contracts, and the EU governments had imperfect information about the precise operation of the Treaty. As a result, the EP was able to re-interpret these rules to its advantage and threaten not to co-operate with the governments unless they accepted the EP's interpretations. The article shows how this process of discretion, interpretation and acceptance worked in the two main areas of EP power: in the legislative process (in the reform of the co-decision procedure), and in executive appointment (in the reform of the Commission investiture procedure). The article concludes that ‘agenda-setting through discretion in rule interpretation’ is a common story in the development of the powers of parliaments, both at the domestic and EU levels.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJourna...
Additional Information: © 2002 Cambridge University Press
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Government
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2006
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/636/

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