Physicists reveal flaw in EU Constitution

As Britain prepares to make its mind up over the proposed European Constitution, Physics World reveals new research by physicists in Poland that claims the most controversial aspect of the new constitution, the voting rules at the EU Council of Ministers, are fatally flawed and will give some countries unfair clout in the decision-making process.

From Institute of Physics :
Physicists reveal flaw in EU Constitution

As Britain prepares to make its mind up over the proposed European Constitution, Physics World reveals new research by physicists in Poland that claims the most controversial aspect of the new constitution, the voting rules at the EU Council of Ministers, are fatally flawed and will give some countries unfair clout in the decision-making process.

Karol Zyczkowski and Wojciech Slomczynski, physicists from the Jagielonian University in Krakow, have used existing techniques in game theory to calculate how much power each country will have if the new constitution is adopted i.e. what their ability to influence the decisions of the Council of Ministers will be.

They found that citizens in different EU countries will not have the same degree of influence on decisions taken by the Council. They disagree with the notion that the new constitution uses the simplest voting system possible, and claim that there is a much fairer solution, which they have named the Jagiellonian Compromise.

The key problem is that voting power does not relate to the number of votes a member state has, but rather depends on their ability to get decisions passed by forming coalitions with other states to push decisions through the Council.

A simple analogy would be a hung parliament where the most voting power actually rests with the minority parties, because they can swing any particular vote. This situation can be analyzed using a branch of mathematical physics known as game theory and the authors use two existing methods devised by Lionel Penrose (father of Roger) and John Banzhaf, a physicist turned law professor at George Washington University.

These are accurate methods for looking at the actual voting power of countries or political parties. The authors have analysed every member state in the EU, and looked at how their voting power will change first when the Treaty of Nice is introduced in November and then what it will be if the proposed new EU Constitution is introduced.

Under the proposed new constitution, new legislation will only have to satisfy two criteria to pass into law: the member states voting for it must account for at least 65% of the total population of the EU; and at least 15 member states must vote for it.

Zyczkowski and Slomczynski have shown that this system is effectively the same as one in which ”voting weight” is directly proportional to population, and that such a system gives an unfair advantage to larger countries

If the proposed new constitution is adopted, Germany will gain the most voting power by far, followed by France, the UK and Italy. Spain and Poland will be the biggest losers.

They go on to suggest a solution they claim is ”representative, transparent, effective and objective” being based on a purely statistical approach that wont handicap any particular country. They calculate that all citizens in the EU would have the same voting power if each member state were given a weight that was proportional to the square root of its population, and if new legislation required 62% of the votes at the council.

For further information or a pdf of their paper please contact David Reid (details at bottom of release).


The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.

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