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Tallberg, J. (2003) ‘The agenda-shaping powers of the EU Council Presidency’

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The academic context.
  3. The Presidency as a way to lead the European activity.
  4. Why would member states accept such a steering power?
  5. Comments on Tallberg's article: A conditional 'power of the chair'.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. References.

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. [...]

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