The Legacy of the Luxembourg Compromise, 1966–1986
After a clash between member state governments over agricultural financing, French president Charles de Gaulle instructed French representatives to withdraw from European Economic Community institutions at Brussels in July 1965. His European conception was markedly different from the Communities’ technocratic model of supranational economic union, because he favoured the intergovernmental cooperation of sovereign nation-states, which he called the “Europe of the Fatherlands”. To secure French sovereignty vis-à-vis the European Communities, he started the "empty chair crisis", also known as "Common Market crisis".
The so-called Luxembourg Compromise ended the "empty chair crisis" in January 1966: the French government unilaterally declared that France should dispose of a veto right in the decision-making Council of Ministers when important national interests were at stake and when qualified majority voting should have taken place according to the Treaties of Rome. Whether the Luxembourg Compromise became European Law and acquis communautaire remains controversial. However, the Luxembourg declaration became the lock-in point of a veto culture, which characterised the decision-making of the European Communities during the following two decades. Member state governments invoked the Luxembourg Compromise to prevent the Council from voting. According to the literature, this veto culture became one of the origins of the stagnation and paralysis of European politics during the 1970s, a phenomenon called “Euro-Sclerosis”.
Against this historical background, this project proposes a qualitative historical analysis about how this informal political arrangement became established and then progressively de-legitimised over time, eventually disappearing in the late 1980s. It will study the internal institutional debates (including judicial expertise) and the external public debates over the practice and legitimacy of voting and vetoing, because voting and vetoing stood paradigmatically for different conceptions of the European Union. Empirically, the analysis focuses on European summit meetings connected to key events in European integration history such as enlargements, reform proposals, European elections or treaty revisions. The project will help explain why European integration was revived so rapidly by the Delors Commissions in the 1980s, thus preparing the European Communities for the institutional reforms of the 1990s. The project has interesting links with several of the MPI's research focus areas, in particular "Conflict Regulation" and "Legal Spaces".