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Chapter 9 The Council of the European Union. Chapter by Jeffrey Lewis Cini & Pérez-Solórzano Borragán European Union Politics, 3 rd edition. Chapter 9 Slide 2. Lecture Plan. Overview and key features of the Council Institutional structure European Council Ministers’ Councils COREPER

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Chapter 9 the council of the european union

Chapter 9The Council of the European Union

Chapter by Jeffrey Lewis

Cini & Pérez-Solórzano Borragán

European Union Politics, 3rd edition


Lecture plan

Chapter 9

Slide 2

Lecture Plan

  • Overview and key features of the Council

  • Institutional structure

    • European Council

    • Ministers’ Councils

    • COREPER

    • Working Groups

    • Council Secretariat General

  • Changes and challenges


Overview 1

Chapter 9

Slide 3

Overview (1)

  • EU Council / Council of Ministers / Council

  • The centre of EU decision making

    • Must approve all EU proposals

    • National ministers authorised to adopt legislation

    • Directs integration process

    • Fundamental role of European Council


Overview 2

Chapter 9

Slide 3

Overview (2)

  • The “Council”

    • Different Council formation for each policy sector

    • Each formation has distinct agenda & culture

    • Most senior formation: GAERC

      • General Affairs and External Relations Council

      • Foreign Affairs ministers

  • Key features

    • Rotating presidency

    • Intergovernmental and supranational

      • Forum to represent national interests

      • Collective decision making & consensus seeking


Rotating presidency

Chapter 9

Slide 5

Rotating Presidency

  • Key features

    • Rotates every six months

    • Powerful position for state holding Presidency

    • “Presidency trio”

  • Responsibilities include

    • Planning, scheduling

      • Council meetings, European Council, COREPER & working groups

    • External voice of EU


Relationship with other institutions

Chapter 9

Slide 6

Relationship with other Institutions

  • Council - Commission

    • Provides the fundamental dynamic of integration

    • At times strained

      • e.g. “empty chair crisis”

    • At times successful

      • e.g. development of Single Market

  • Council – European Parliament

    • Increased interaction due to codecision procedure

    • Establishment of new intra-institutional dynamic


Structure of the council

Chapter 9

Slide 7

Structure of the Council

  • Conventional description

    • European Council

      • 27 Heads of state and Commission President

    • Ministerial level

      • GAERC & ECOFIN as primer inter pares

    • COREPER

      • Committee of Permanent Representatives

    • Working groups

  • This is a rough reflection of reality


European council summitry

Chapter 9

Slide 8

European Council Summitry

  • Highest political authority in the EU

    • Created early 1970s

    • Formally institutionalised 1974

    • Legally recognised with SEA (1986)

  • Key features

    • Motor of “history making” moments in the EU

      • Leaders discuss highly politically charged issues

    • Summits provide direction for integration

      • “Presidency conclusions”


Ministers councils 1

Chapter 9

Slide 9

Ministers’ Councils (1)

  • Key features

    • Different Council formation for different sector

    • Ministers commit to new legislation

    • Monthly meetings (approx.)

    • More frequent meetings for GAERC, ECOFIN and AGFISH

    • 1st pillar: Ministers adopt directives, regulations and declarations

    • 2nd and 3rd pillars: via joint action with EP

    • Large and busy meetings


Ministers councils 2

Chapter 9

Slide 10

Ministers’ Councils (2)

  • Decision making

    • Voting rare due to culture of consensus seeking

      • Unanimity (abstention ≠ no)

      • QMV- triple majority (Treaty of Nice)

      • QMV- double majority (Treaty of Lisbon)

    • Agenda

      • Part A (A points): no discussion, just approval required

      • Part B (B points): discussion required


Coreper 1

Chapter 9

Slide 11

COREPER (1)

  • Key features

    • COREPER I and COREPER II (independent)

    • Permanent representatives provide continuity

    • Prepares Ministers’ Councils

    • No formal decision making power (NB A points)

    • Weekly meetings; many confidential

    • Negotiates all areas of EU business

    • Mixture of intergovernmental and supranational


Coreper 2

Chapter 9

Slide 12

COREPER (2)

  • COREPER I

    • Deputy Permanent Representatives

    • Preparation of technical Councils

  • COREPER II

    • Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors)

    • Preparation of GAERC, and institutional and financial Councils


Working groups

Chapter 9

Slide 13

Working Groups

  • Key features

    • National officials and specialists

    • Either permanent or ad hoc groups

    • “Workhouse” of the Council

    • Site of initial negotiation of new proposal/issue

    • Concerned with technical (not political) detail


Council general secretariat cgs

Chapter 9

Slide 14

Council General Secretariat (CGS)

  • Key features

    • Vital administrative role, including linguistic service

    • Headed by Secretary General (SG) & Deputy

      • SG usually holds long tenure → important continuity

    • Includes “A grade” policy making positions

    • SG → High Representative of CFSP (1999)

    • → Increased role for DSG in COREPER II


Institutional evolution challenges

Chapter 9

Slide 15

Institutional Evolution & Challenges

  • Inefficient system

    • Created for six members, not EU27

    • Larger agenda → more A points to “rubber stamp”

  • Democratic deficit

    • Confidentiality allows for effective deal brokering

    • But Council lacks credibility

  • Differentiation

    • Diversity of division?

  • Enlargement

    • Potential change in Council dynamic


Lecture review

Chapter 9

Slide 16

Lecture review

  • Council as main decision making body

  • Principal institution to promote national interests

  • Mixture of intergovernmental & supranational

  • Institutional challenges → reform


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