Participation in EU decision-making

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Justice and Law - Politics and Society

Participation in EU decision-making

Portugal in comparative perspective

A study conducted by Professors Richard Rose and Alexander Trechsel that aims to evaluate the different ways that the Portuguese can participate in the European Union decision-making processes and, whenever possible, their effectiveness. 

At the European Union we have a seat at the table with big countries and we also have a microphone. But we must be careful about how others around the table will react before we speak.

A small country ambassador to the European Union

Portugal’s demographic, political and economic weight is rather limited, and this must be compensated by an intelligent exertion of influence (the so-called ‘smart power’). Portugal has little power, in terms of formal decision mechanisms in the European Union, and it has been decreasing with the institutional changes and those in the decision-making processes resulting from the various Treaty revisions (particularly the Lisbon Treaty). It is, therefore, increasingly important to be aware of the informal power mechanisms and use the various influence means available in an intelligent manner.


*The EU's consensus norms mean big states must consult with smaller states but a consensus does not require consulting with each smaller state.

*Since Portugal joined the EU, enlargement has more than doubled the number of smaller member states making each at risk of being lost in a crowd.

*Portugal needs to emphasise common interests not just national interests in order participate in coalitions with more than a dozen other member states, large and not so large.

*To keep national and EU policies aligned, the Portuguese Permanent Representative’s Office in Brussels must be in constant contact with Lisbon and vice versa.

*To cultivate political influence, more Portuguese MEPs should serve at least two terms in the European Parliament.

*To work effectively in an interdependent European political economy, Portuguese need education and experience in working in multi-national setting as well as Lisbon.

There are two kinds of European countries: those that are small and know it and those that are small and don't.

A Belgian Prime Minister