The financial and economic crisis revealed the dependence of the European Union (EU) on aggregating different views on appropriate policy solutions. Scholars of the EU have long been interested in what matters for political actors and how they arrive at what in the field is thought of as their ‘preferences’ in EU decision-making.
The aim of this chapter is to engage in a conceptual and empirical debate on this issue. Starting from a conceptual clarification of ‘preference formation’ as a process, the chapter offers a constructive critique of one of the major explanatory frameworks of preference formation in EU studies - liberal intergovernmentalism. While preference formation always is messy, non-linear and leaves leeway for the modification not only of actors’ positions but also their preferences, its formation in a crisis period such at the one of EMU is an even more complex endeavour. We argue that traditional understandings of insulated domestic preference formation through interest aggregation and competition require revision in the light of problems in preference formation in general and in the interdependent policy-making of the EU in particular.
This theoretical discussion will be studied empirically through a comparison of the construction of national preferences related to four case studies: the initial Greek rescue, the capitalisation of the European Stability Mechanism, the legal nature of the debt brake enshrined with the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG) and the Reverse Qualified majority voting. Relying on the EMU Choices dataset based semi-structured interviews conducted with high-level civil servants in every EMU country, the chapter compares preference formation in three countries: Germany, France, UK.