Making the EU (a bit) simpler

A very recurrent comment from our students is that “the European Union is so complicated to understand”: and certainly, my impression is that colleagues across the sector rarely try to dispell this.  My opinion is simply that telling people something is complicated only puts up barriers to their understanding, so trying to develop a discourse about the ease of it all can only help.

With this in mind, I offer a small game that mimics many of the dynamics of Qualified Majority voting, as used in the Council of Ministers.  There are only ten players (although more can observe) and two issues, defined solely by numerical values.  However, the game does expose the various dimensions of power and the tension between individual and collective gains.  Playing it yesterday with students, we discussed how it was affected by their past behaviour in negotiations and about how the game would have run differently if there were several iterations and/or more opportunities for pay-offs (both of which would be simple to model in this set-up).  Certainly, it was rewarding to see how they managed to develop a negotiating framework that went well beyond the numbers on the sheet.

The game was purposed originally as a demonstration of the role of power in negotiations, but I’m going to be taking into my Intro to EU module in the spring, because I think it offers a different way into the subject and one that will help the students warm to it all, rather than shrink back in fear.

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