At the Table Or On the Menu?

Why should Poland adopt the Euro?

Former foreign minister Radek Sikorski offers a culinary argument. “I think that this is a situation captured well by an American proverb”, he says: “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu”. In other words, he suggests that Poland’s adoption of the common currency would make the country more influential in European politics.

My research focuses on Mr. Sikorski’s claim. I want to find out how Eurozone membership impacts negotiations in the Council of the European Union, the key intergovernmental EU institution. Are Euro members really more influential?

Previous research answers this question with a resounding ‘maybe’. A study by Rebecca Adler-Nissen of Copenhagen University finds that British and Danish negotiators are stigmatized because of their countries’ nonmembership in the common currency. They lose status among their peers in the Council. They have to wait outside of the room when Euro members take decisions. They are presented with legislation pre-agreed by Euro members. In sum, Euro outsiders resemble a figure from the popular Polish comedy show “Ucho Prezesa”: a senior politician, called Adrian, who constantly tries to get into the room where important decisions are made – but never succeeds.

Other researchers are more cautious. Whether a Euro-outsider loses influence, they say, depends on the country in question. It is more difficult to exclude large member states, for instance, the UK. Moreover, a non-member could regain influence by working with political groups in the European Parliament, by using a plethora of institutions of the Council open to all member states or by building coalitions with other non-members.

To settle this dispute I propose a theory of how Euro members exert influence. It focuses on three channels. First, I theorize that Euro members seek to expand the agenda of exclusive institutions such as the Eurogroup (agenda channel). Secondly, they build coalitions which exclude non-members (coalition channel). Thirdly, they use exclusive institutions for logrolling, i.e. exchanging support for details of legislation (logrolling channel).

I will test this theory on two original datasets. To analyze the agenda channel I will compare press releases of two institutions: the Eurogroup, an exclusive Euro-only decisionmaking body, and the ECOFIN Council, a body open to all members. If the Eurogroup has dealt with more issues over time and more issues which should normally be discussed in the all-EU body this would support my hypothesis. To analyze coalitions and logrolling I have identified member state positions in 37,000 Council documents. The result is a dataset of 303 controversial Council negotiations completed between 1999-2016. To uncover coalition behavior and logrolling performance I will work on this dataset with focused comparisons, statistics and qualitative comparative analysis.

Let me end by sketching out why this research could be relevant beyond caves of nerdy political scientists. First, we will find out more about who wins and who loses in European politics. Have you heard claims that Poland is always on the losing side, while Germany is calling the shots? Well, it could be true, or not true. Secondly, we will find more about political benefits of Euro membership. We might find out if, why and when Euro members are more influential, what kind of influence is involved and why this is the case. Finally, if you follow the news you probably know that ‘multiple speeds’ of European integration might define the shape of the Union in coming years. I hope to contribute to this debate by showing political consequences of multi-speed integration. In the end, no one likes to be on the menu all the time.

About the Author

Jan Jakub ChromiecJan Jakub Chromiec is a doctoral student at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, supervised by Prof. Henrik Enderlein (Hertie School) and Prof. Mareike Kleine (London School of Economics). After studying flute, linguistics, management and public policy in Łódź, Mainz, Rotterdam and Berlin he worked for the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany and the US, where he was involved in setting up an international rating agency and oversaw a project on the innovativeness of the German economy. Jan Jakub is an affiliated researcher at the Jacques Delors Institute, a think tank, where he focuses on Polish-German relations, Ukraine and EU foreign policy. He has written for newspapers including Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung and was interviewed by Deutsche Welle, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Bento and Tagesspiegel.

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