Detecting Looming Vetoes: Getting the European Parliament’s Consent in Trade Agreements

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Detecting Looming Vetoes: Getting the European Parliament’s Consent in Trade Agreements


  • Marie Peffenköver Independent Researcher, Belgium
  • Johan Adriaensen Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  Since the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament wields the power of consent over international (trade) agreements, enabling it to threaten a veto. Due to the extensive financial and reputational costs associated with a veto, the European Commission (hereinafter Commission) was expected to read these threats effectively. However, the Commission’s responses to such threats have varied greatly. Building on a fine-grained causal mechanism derived from information processing theory and an extensive process-tracing analysis of seven free trade agreements post-Lisbon, we explain why the Commission has responded differently to looming vetoes. Our analysis reveals that the variation in Commission responses derives from imperfections in its information-processing system, the ‘early-warning system,’ which had to be adapted to the new institutional equilibrium post-Lisbon. Because of this adaption process, factors exogenous to the parliamentary context (‘externalities’) as well as internal uncertainties (‘internalities’) add constant unpredictability to the Commission’s reading of the European Parliament.

Keywords:  EU trade policy; European Commission; European Parliament; information processing theory; trade agreements; veto

Published:   30 July 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i3.4014


© Marie Peffenköver, Johan Adriaensen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.