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Mühlboeck, Monika and Rittberger, Berthold (2015): The Council, the European Parliament, and the paradox of inter-institutional cooperation. In: European integration Online Papers-Eiop, Vol. 19, 4

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Decision-making between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament is characterized by a paradox. On the one hand, there is a high potential for inter-institutional conflict. Historically, the EP and the Council have been opponents in the struggle for power. In addition, both institutions can be said to fulfill different representational roles within the political system of the EU, with the Council representing the member states and the Parliament representing the citizens. Furthermore, agreement between the two is complicated by decision rules posing high thresholds for agreement and actors with often diverging preferences. On the other hand, in day-to-day policy-making, the Council and the European Parliament display a high level of consensus and decision-making efficiency. Most legislation is decided in first reading, and early agreements provide a shortcut for cumbersome inter-institutional negotiations. To shed light on this paradox, we conceptualize the mechanisms and dynamics underlying inter-institutional cooperation and conflict by taking recourse to factors derived from historical, sociological and rational choice institutionalisms. We argue that the same logics which account for conflict also contain the explanation for cooperation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that each of the theoretical approaches is particularly well suited to highlight a certain aspect of the paradox.

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