Date:

Share:

The Future of National Veto in the EU

Similar Posts

This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

Countries that are members of the European Union (EU) have the right of veto due to the structure of the organization. All decisions by the EU are taken by consensus after discussions among member states. The consultation procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the EU. The procedure is used for politically sensitive issues, where member states assume responsibility for policy making and make decisions based on unanimity.[1] Therefore, the issue of unanimity comes to the fore as one of the main features of the EU. However, this issue brings with it from time-to-time problems and challenges in the functioning of the EU’s decision-making mechanism.

It is seen that there has been a growing discontent of Germany regarding the veto in the EU recently. In fact, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the EU member states to abolish the veto power in foreign policy in 2021 and reacted to this situation with the words, “We can no longer be held hostage by those who paralyses European foreign policy with their vetoes.”[2]

A similar policy appears to have continued under German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In July 2022, Scholz said, “We can no longer afford national vetoes in foreign policy, if we want to continue to be heard in a world of competing great Powers.”[3] In August 2022, the German Chancellor again expressed the need for unanimity on the EU’s foreign policy and taxation issues.[4]

The fact that the statements were made by Germany, which stands out as the most economically and politically powerful member of the EU, is an issue that needs to be emphasized. Until the beginning of the 2000s, the fact that the alliance consisted of countries with a high level of prosperity in Western Europe was an element that accelerated the decision-making process. However, especially the inclusion of former Eastern Bloc member countries in the fifth and sixth enlargement of the EU and the increase in the number of members have brought about many challenges.

In particular, some EU member countries, which are economically and politically weaker, use their veto privileges to override the preferences of the major states in the Union. Although he did not name the country in his speeches, the Chancellor of Germany is displeased with the governments in Poland and Hungary. For example, the fact that Hungary is the only EU member that raises its voice against the sanctions imposed on Russia by taking into account its own national interests is considered by Berlin as a situation that prevents the organization from acting jointly in the decisions it takes on foreign policy. The EU considers that the veto power has been used by Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban in a way that is contrary to the interests of the union.[5]

Debates on the functioning of the EU decision-making mechanism have started to come up more frequently due to the Russia-Ukraine War. Because Europe is challenged by the biggest crisis it has faced since the World War II. Therefore, Scholz’s statements should be evaluated in this regard. On the other hand, the war in Ukraine has shown that the EU cannot take quick decisions in foreign policy due to the veto rights of the member states.

Currently, the EU has 27 members. In the near future, this number is expected to exceed 30. In other words, considering that the EU will expand further, it can be foreseen that the issue of national veto will continue to be on the agenda.

It is expected that the enlargement process will continue with the Western Balkan countries; Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. However, most of the countries mentioned are currently experiencing problems both among themselves and with some countries within the Union. For example, the accession process of North Macedonia to the EU has been delayed for a long time due to Bulgaria’s veto. Bulgaria lifted this veto in June 2022. Because Sofia has demanded Skopje to solve some historical, linguistic and identical problems. For all these reasons, the membership process of Albania, which works together with North Macedonia, has indirectly prolonged its EU membership process. The situation has exposed the problem in the EU’s decision-making mechanism and slowed down the enlargement process.

It is also a question mark how the Balkan countries will adapt to the Union if their membership is realized. Especially considering that the Balkans are a geography of crisis, this question becomes even more important. Because the Balkan states, whose membership will take place, will also have the right of veto. This could further slowdown the EU decision-making mechanism.

For all these reasons, it is possible that there will be a revision of the veto in the EU in the future. However, there is a point which this possibility is blocked. TH EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell expressed that although he was in favor of ending the veto right, unanimity was also needed to achieve its abolition.[6] Therefore, making an amendment on the veto is not a decision that only a few states can take. It requires the approval of all 27 EU member states. This makes the process even more tangle.

In sum, it is observed that Germany, the most powerful state in the bloc, is dissatisfied with the veto in the EU. However, the fact that Germany is the most powerful member of the Union does not give it superiority in this regard. Because 27 countries are members of the EU and all of them have the right to veto. Therefore, all countries have an equal vote on the decisions taken. Even amending on the veto requires the approval of each member. However, the necessity of persuading each member individually complicates things even more. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that Germany will get what it wants.

In the event of an amendment in the veto issue, the most likely scenario will be to incline to the choice of majority vote. However, when the veto issue is examined from the general framework, it can be argued that this conflict is in a sense between the countries that prioritize their national interests and the countries that take care of the interests of the union.


[1] “Decision-making Procedures in the European Union”, EU Monitor, https://www.eumonitor.eu/9353000/1/j9vvik7m1c3gyxp/vg9tssega1vj, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

[2] “Germany Calls for Abolition of ‘Paralysing’ EU Member States Foreign Policy Veto”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/06/08/germany-calls-for-abolition-of-paralysing-eu-member-states-foreign-policy-veto, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

[3] “Germany’s Scholz Says EU Can No Longer Afford National Vetoes”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, https://www.rferl.org/a/eu-scholz-no-veto/31947439.html, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

[4]   “EU Needs Majority Voting in Foreign, Tax Policy–Scholz”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-needs-majority-voting-foreign-tax-policy-scholz-2022-08-29/, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

[5] Cemal Ege Özkan, “Macaristan–Avrupa Birliği İlişkilerinde “Fon” Sorunu”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/macaristan-avrupa-birligi-iliskilerinde-fon-sorunu/, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

[6] “Germany Calls for Abolition of ‘Paralysing’ EU Member States Foreign Policy Veto”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/06/08/germany-calls-for-abolition-of-paralysing-eu-member-states-foreign-policy-veto, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.