Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

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

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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


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