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Small state governmental capacities and strategies to influence the EU decision-making process: a case study of Malta

Micallef Grimaud, Jean Pierre (2015) Small state governmental capacities and strategies to influence the EU decision-making process: a case study of Malta. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The thesis is divided into two main parts: Parts I and II. Part I includes the literature review besides all the theoretical, conceptual and methodological research of the thesis. Part II encompasses the empirical research. This thesis examines whether small state governments in the European Union (EU) exercise influence in decision-making legislative processes. The following questions are put forward as part of the thesis’s investigation: - Are EU small member state governments influential in EU decision-making processes? In other words, do they exercise influence in these processes? And if so, how and at which stage do they do this? The thrust of the thesis goes contrary to the general notion that due to their smallness, small EU states do not exercise influence in such processes. It therefore explores whether small EU state governments are not necessarily as ‘weak’ or ‘powerless’ as literature on small states in the EU seems to portray. This thesis seeks to answer the above questions by focusing on Malta - the smallest state in the EU - and whether it exercises influence in ‘uploading’ its preferences in two distinct stages of EU legislative decision-making processes - decision-shaping (formation) and decision-taking (adoption). The cases selected and analyzed showcase the Maltese government’s behaviour in legislative negotiations in differing EU policy spheres that are extremely relevant to it. These are the adoption of EU directives on pyrotechnic articles (falling under the EU competition and consumer health and safety policy spheres) and on the extension of EU long-term residence to beneficiaries of international protection (falling under EU immigration policy). As analyzed in Part II of the thesis, Malta’s government has achieved varying degrees of success in its exercise of influence in these EU decision-making processes. The thesis selects six independent variables from the literature on small states that may be perceived as significant agents or factors for governmental influence in EU decision-making processes. These have been divided between governmental capacities (variables 1 to 3) and strategies (variables 4 to 6). Data has been collected through the use of differing methodological techniques of a dual nature: qualitative (through process-tracing, documentary analysis and elite interviews with the main EU and Maltese government officials participating in the legislative negotiations examined in this thesis) and quantitative (descriptive statistics with levels of measurement and spread). The theoretical framework of the thesis applies three main approaches. These are rational choice theory, new institutionalism and multi-level governance. Chapters 4 and 11 provide an in-depth analysis of how these approaches apply to the thesis’s empirical framework. Given that the subject matter of this thesis is relatively underexplored, it contributes to the literature on this subject in a number of ways. Primarily, it furthers knowledge on small states in the EU particularly their behaviour in EU decision-making processes. It also advances knowledge on Malta in the EU, particularly its performance in EU legislative decision-making on which to date not much research has been undertaken. It therefore fills a vacuum in literature on Malta in EU legislative decision-making processes. Finally, the author would like to stress that while use is made of relevant existing conceptual/theoretical material found in Part I of the thesis, the empirical research in Part II is original.

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