The Presidency of the European Union Council is an attribution that is not often analysed in the literature on EU decision-making. To put it briefly, the member state holding the Presidency of the Council for six months is in fact chairing the meetings of the European Council, meeting at least twice a year, and of the EU Council. As it is defined by the Treaties as an organisational function, only a few academics devoted attention on it as an influential agenda-shaper. However this occupation, following the example of many European institutions, developed itself apart from its legal attributions throughout the years. As a result, it needed to be reconsidered and this has been done by Tallberg in his article The agenda-shaping powers of the EU Council Presidency. It is a rather straightforward piece of work so we will go through Tallberg's main arguments following his own order. We will see that even though Tallberg's findings are hardly questionable - as he is using both theoretical and empirical methods - there is still a need to develop some of them.
[...] All of these constraints added to Pollack's, show that the agenda-shaping power of the EU Council Presidency is in a great extent conditional and this has not been enough specified in Tallberg's article. We have seen that a closer look to the Presidency role is needed to realize that it is not just an organisational tool and that its influence has been underestimated in the literature. Theoretically and empirically, Tallberg tried to prove that the Presidency has the power to influence the agenda, although it remains an informal and above all conditional “power of the chair” (Tallberg, 2004: 1001). [...]
[...] As we have seen above, the Presidency is a rather undefined institution and as a consequence, member states can remain in control of a transnational situation, mainly by avoiding issues (agenda-exclusion) or on the contrary by emphasizing some of them (agenda-structuring). III. Why would member states accept such a steering power? Tallberg's last inquiry was to know why such a fraudulent system is allowed by the other states. Using a rational-institutionalist justification, first he argues that such a method permits to have a constant flow of new issues on the agenda. [...]
[...] More precisely, Tallberg mentions three recurrent arguments willing to prove the uninfluential power of the EU Council Presidency: 1. As said above, no important official power has been delegated to this function, especially not the power of initiative; 2. Various constraints exist that decrease member states' room for manoeuvre such as uncontrollable external factors or the former Presidency agenda's legacy; 3. The notion of “neutral presidency” that must be respected by the member states. Nicoll and Salmon yet discovered that this function has been developed throughout the years and identified three main roles of the Presidency (1990: the management of meetings, the mediation of European negotiations and the internal and external representation of the Council. [...]
[...] (2003) agenda-shaping powers of the EU Council Presidency', Journal of European Public Policy, Vol.10 pp. 1-19 Tallberg, J. (2004) Power of the Presidency: Brokerage, Efficiency and Distribution in EU Negotiations', JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol.42 pp. 999–1022 Warntjen, A. (2007) ‘Steering the Union. The Impact of the EU Presidency on the Legislative Activity in the Council', Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol pp. 113-1155 This is only partly true now, since the Treaty of Nice established that as soon [...]
[...] However, if the success - in terms of greater EU interest - for the first area was clear, for the second it was rather limited. According to Kennedy, this difference is due to the lack of a “Latin American lobby” (Kennedy, 2000: 124) within the EU that could assist Spain in launching a new European regional policy. On the other hand, Southern countries such as France, Italy and Portugal were supportive of an increased EU engagement in the Mediterranean region. [...]
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