The Role of Committees in the Policy-Process of the European Union

The Role of Committees in the Policy-Process of the European Union

Legislation, Implementation and Deliberation

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Torbjörn Larsson

This book provides a comprehensive account of the role of the advisory, legislative and implementation committees involved in the policy-making process of the European Union. This is an aspect of EU politics that is often overlooked and remains under-researched, even though such committees can have wide-ranging influence in the policy-process.

Chapter 5: Council Working Groups: Spaces for Sectorized European Policy Deliberation

Eve Fouilleux, Jacques de Maillard and Andy Smith

Subjects: law - academic, european law, politics and public policy, european politics and policy


Eve Fouilleux, Jacques de Maillard and Andy Smith INTRODUCTION Our principal focus in this chapter is the working groups of the Council of Ministers. More precisely, by examining through interviews and documentary analysis how legislation has been processed via such groups in different sectors, our research set out to shed light on the role played by Council working groups in EU policy-making. This objective was and is important because of the lack of attention paid by research to this subject. Apart from some specific case studies (Beyers and Diericks, 1997, 1998; Flynn, 2000), isolated references in readers on the Council (Hayes-Renshaw and Wallace, 1997; Westlake, 1999; Sherrington, 2000) and one unpublished PhD thesis (Trondal, 2001), working groups are somewhat of a ‘black box’ for political science, let alone the general public.1 A recent book questioning the influence of committees in the EU even excluded the case of Council working groups (Van Schendelen, 1998). From examining how legislation has been processed via Council working groups in five policy sectors,2 our principal finding is that working groups always matter in EU decision-making but not because the Council is allpowerful. At a time when the balance between the EU’s institutions appears to have shifted considerably, we consider instead that working groups are vital parts of the EU legislative process because they are the arenas where draft legislation begins to firm up and moves towards compromise solutions take place3. This said, working groups are not predictable intergovernmental battlegrounds but sites for...

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