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Instead, it will address another key change in the EU’s makeup that I have not seen a single newspaper article about recently but one which is arguably more important for European politics.
On 1 November also, some key provisions of the Lisbon Treaty enter into force: namely, the root-and-branch reform of the voting weights of member states in the Council of Ministers.
This may sound arcane but it is not. The vast majority of EU law is adopted now by co-decision, meaning majorities can outvote minorities. The voting weights of different member states is about the most political issue in the makeup of the EU: it is about who rules the roost, the small or the big member states?
So what is changing on 1 November?
Currently the Council needs 74% (260 of 352) of ‘weighted’ votes for a qualified majority decision. The ‘big four’ (Germany, France, UK and Italy) have 29 votes each, Spain and Poland 27, and so it goes down all the way to the smallest member states, Malta and Luxembourg, with three votes each. If you do the maths, the conclusion is that a Maltese citizen’s vote carries around 20 times as much weight as a German one.
If you think this is not entirely fair, well, the negotiators of the Lisbon Treaty agreed. On 1 November the key decisionmaking rule becomes that 65% of the EU population is required for a qualified majority in Council.
This has a huge impact.
The first is that it becomes easier for Council to agree. The number of possible country coalitions to pass the ‘65% of population’ threshold is six times higher than to pass the ‘74% of votes’ threshold; it goes from 2% to 12% of theoretically possible country coalitions. This is an immense change: Council essentially becomes six times more decisive.