Loyal agent or shirking partner: understanding the policy goals of national ministers in the Council of the European Union

Petia Kostadinova (University of Illinois)
Amie Kreppel (University of Florida)







Even though most Council delegations are composed of coalitions of ideologically diverse parties, its members are often conceptualized as a single player per member state. Questioning the monolithic interpretation of national interests in the Council, Petia Kostadinova and Amie Kreppel investigate in their article the extent to which partisan differences within government coalitions manifest themselves in the positions expressed within the Council. They argue that delegations consist of multiple actors who might have different preferences than the partners in the national government. To account for the potential preference divergence, Petia and Amie analyze the differences between the policy position of each member state in the Council and the preferences of the respective governing coalitions between 1996-2018. The analyses demonstrate that ministers can indeed shape a state’s position to align more closely with their own preferences rather than to one of their coalition partners. Coalition agreements, however, reduce policy drift, possibly because they constrain ministers or because they reduce the minister’s need to shift policy outcomes since they represent policy compromises. Overall, this study suggests that when analyzing decision-making at the EU level, future research should take into consideration that member states in the Council are not necessarily unitary actors.