On the basis of the empirical material presented, the assessment of the 1970 institutional setting and its possible breakdown, which Scharpf put forward shortly before the 1988 reform in his seminal article on the ‘joint-decision trap’ in EC (budgetary) politics, becomes strikingly accurate, if not prescient. He wrote:

By way of summary, it is now possible to define the ‘joint-decision trap’ more precisely. It is an institutional arrangement whose policy outcomes have an inherent (non-accidental!) tendency to be sub-optimal – certainly when

compared to the policy potential of unitary governments of similar size and resources. Nevertheless, the arrangement represents a ‘local optimum’ in the cost-benefit calculations of all participants that might have the power to change it. If that is so, there is no ‘gradualist’ way in which joint-decision systems might transform themselves into an institutional arrangement of greater policy potential. In order to be effective, institutional change would have to be largescale, implying the acceptance of short-term losses for many, or all, participants. That is unlikely, but not impossible (Elster 1979). And, of course, the system might be jolted out of its present equilibrium by external intervention or by a dramatic deterioration of its performance which would undermine even its ‘local optimality’ for crucial participants.