The main motivation for this thesis is to connect preferences with observable behaviour at all stages of the EU policy-making process. The following are the most important stages in any policy-making process: 1) bargaining within a legislative body, 2) bargaining between legislative bodies, 3) formal decisions, and 4) implementation of adopted policies. Including implementation in the definition of a policy-making process ensures an exhaustive understanding of the process. In this thesis, the implications of preferences for all these stages of EU decision making are investigated. The theoretical framework for this investigation is rational choice theory which assumes that actors behave in a utility-maximising way.
Although the research topic is the European Union (EU), the effect of preferences on decision-making behaviour can be applicable to any policy-making body. The thesis finds a link between preferences and choice of action in later stages of decision making. First, greater distance between the pivotal actors across the Council and the EP increase the probability of more than one round of co-decision bargaining. Second, government preferences do have an effect on actual voting behaviour in the Council. A negative preference is more likely to be associated with a negative vote. Third, a negative vote has an effect on the implementation process. A negative vote is more likely to be associated with poor implementation of EU directives by the member states.
The overarching research questions that bind together the four papers that constitute the thesis are the following:
1) (To what extent) can preferences explain behaviour in EU decision making?
2) (To what extent) can preferences account for variation in EU decision-making processes?
In the first paper (co-authored with Bjørn Høyland) the relationship between preferences and voting behaviour is investigated. The second paper explores the relationship between preferences and member state behaviour in the implementation process. Both papers utilise all the variation in behaviour at the member state level. The third and fourth papers switch focus from the member state level to the proposal level. The third paper investigates whether preferences can explain some of the variation in the duration of law making or more specifically whether voting behaviour and divergent preferences have consequences for the time needed to reach agreement. The fourth paper examines whether the preferences of the pivotal actors across the institutions can account for the variation in agreement stage in the co-decision procedure. Drawing upon veto models with incomplete information, greater distance between the ideal positions of the pivotal actors is assumed to be negatively associated with early agreement between the institutions. Altogether, these four papers connect preferences with behaviour of the involved actors in all the aforementioned stages of EU decision making. The findings show that preferences have a robust effect on behaviour throughout the decision-making process.
List of papers I-IV. Papers II. and III. are removed from the thesis due to publisher restrictions.
I. Bjørn Høyland and Vibeke Wøien Hansen. Issue-specific policy-positions and voting in the Council. European Union Politics March 2014 15: 59-81. doi:10.1177/1465116513495970
II. Vibeke Wøien Hansen. (2014?) Linking the bargaining stage with the implementation stage: A preference-based explanation for non-compliance. Submitted
III. Vibeke Wøien Hansen. (2014?) Exploring preference-based determinants of the duration of EU decision making. Submitted
VI. Vibeke Wøien Hansen. (2014) Incomplete information and bargaining in the EU: An explanation of first-reading non-agreements. European Union Politics, Online first. doi:10.1177/1465116514541555