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Who is big in Brussels?

Summary How come some small member states in the EU have more influence over policy-making than their size suggests they should have? This informal fact of EU-cooperation is repeatedly insinuated by expert observers, surveys and scorecards, such as those by the European Council on Foreign Relations. Here, Sweden and the Netherlands, for instance, are believed to have more influence than more populous countries such as Italy or Romania. While the Franco-German duo may be the EU’s undisputed powerhouse, there is no linear relationship between size and influence over EU policy among the smaller member states.
 
While a small member state can do nothing about its geography, it can do something about its representation. It is up to each member state whether to be big in the Brussels machinery. In a new survey, we rank the member states’ permanent representations in Brussels when it comes to size, composition of staff and duration of secondments. We find that on these parameters, countries like Ireland and Finland appear overall in a better position to fight for their national interest than countries like Denmark or Latvia.
 
Research suggests that small member states try to compensate for their size by developing smart state strategies, such as the state as lobbyist, or the state as norm-entrepreneur. But to do so, they need to work harder and faster. In this respect, the size and composition of their permanent representation in Brussels matters. To punch above your weight, you need the manpower and the right staff in place.