Making Europe Work

Article published on March 11, 2004
community published
Article published on March 11, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The Constitution negotiations are blocked, but some students in Poland may have the answer.

The collapse of the EU Summit in December on the European Constitution is only the symptom of a much more complicated and risky political game that we, Europe’s citizens, cannot afford to lose. Regretting the extent to which this crisis has put the Constitution and the future of Europe in jeopardy, we, a team of international students from the College of Europe in Warsaw, decided to propose a system that – with mathematical precision – sits in the middle ground between the two opposing camps. On the one hand, the “Nice team” defends a triple majority system, while, on the other, the “Convention team” defends a simplified double majority. In the midst of all this, national positions – either pro-Nice or pro-Convention – seem to have become increasingly entrenched, fuelling resentment between some of the major European players. Poland wants a compromise based on Nice and Germany wants it based on the Constitution. France is more concerned with its relative position to Germany.

The Idea

Many proposals have already been put forward. In fact, after thorough digging, we unearthed Professor Penrose’s formula which he elaborated in 1946: an optimal way to express the weighted voting power of each Member State taking the square root () of its total population. It is mathematically equally efficient as the Convention’s solutions. It keeps adequate proportions between big, middle-sized and smaller Member States and it does not allow Europe to be dominated by a motor, a directorate or a multi-speed train. Furthermore, this mathematical rationale brings flexibility for future enlargements of the Union, because it is based on a simple square root formula and is not subject to political power games. Therefore, in addition to the number of States and votes, we stress the necessity of introducing a weighed voting system based on population criteria. In other words, we support a qualified majority voting based on 50% of the States, 60% of the votes as well as 50% of the total EU population. This results in a system that is much more efficient than the Nice system when one calculates the mathematical probability of a decision to get through the Council. Under Nice about 2% of all the decisions would get the green light, under the Constitution it would be slightly more than 20%. Our system manages to remain just below the 20%.

The Future

Our QMV team believes that diversity is an asset more than a challenge. The proposal we have made is born out of that conviction. However, we also realise, that with Enlargement cohesion of the Union threatens to become diluted, further hampering the effectiveness of a Europe that has to ensure our peace and prosperity. Therefore, the notion that the students care about a Europe that works lies at the heart of our endeavour.