This paper highlights a significant oversight in the literature on European integration, where the role and impact of the Council Secretariat is all but ignored. This paper produces evidence that shows that the Council Secretariat has played a significant role in IGC negotiations. A bargaining model is developed that theorizes the causal impact that the IGC negotiation process can have upon how actors are able to translate bargaining resources into influence over IGC outcomes. The negotiation of the 1996-97 and 2000 IGCs are then investigated, showing that the Council Secretariat is in many respects the overlooked "vital cog" of the IGC process, significantly influencing IGC outcomes. The Council Secretariat is found to be influential due to a combination of its high level of expertise, reputation as a trusted assistant its privileged institutional position, and skillful use of pragmatic and behind-the-scenes agenda-shaping and brokering strategies. IGCs are, therefore, not always intergovernmental affairs due to high bargaining costs and boundedly rational actors. The negotiation process grants the Secretariat and other EU institutions opportunities to translate their bargaining resources into influence over outcomes. The context of the negotiations and strategies employed by EU institutions then determines the level of influence that they have over outcomes.