The European Council under Construction: EU Top Level Decision Making at the Beginning of a New Century

van Grinsven, P. (2003). The European Council under Construction: EU Top Level Decision Making at the Beginning of a New Century. Discussion Papers in Diplomacy; 88 [September 2003]

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The European Council, the meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the European Union, has evolved into EU's most influential and powerful decision-making institution. However, the processes of deepening (expansion of policy areas) and widening (enlargement) of European integration have forced the European Council to tackle the potential threat of a crisis in European top-level decision making before actual enlargement with ten new members in May 2004. If the current generation of political leaders is not able to reach agreement on necessary reforms, future decision-making in the European Council could eventually turn out to be a mission impossible. Despite a successful record, the European Council seemed to have lost its grip on the integration process at the end of the 1990's. Adaptations of the decision-making process, still based on an unchanged negotiation structure since its creation in the 1970's, are needed if the European Council wants to continue its important and guiding role in European integration.

Two parallel processes of European Council reform have been initiated or intensified and are to be finalised before actual enlargement next year. The first process deals with the operational settings of the European Council summits. The second process deals with the institutional structure and the balance of power between the EU institutions.

The main purpose of this paper is twofold. The first goal is to present information on the evolution and current functioning of the European Council since the summits are still surrounded by a lot of secrecy and informal decision-making. Secondly, an overview and analysis will be presented on these current reform processes that need to prepare the European Council for the upcoming enlargement. It is argued that the European Council has accurately overcome many of its problems and critics by ensuring a stronger institutional position in the future EU. The European Council will be in the driving seat more than ever before.

Item Type: Other
Research Programs: Processes of International Negotiation Network (PIN)
Bibliographic Reference: Discussion Papers in Diplomacy; 88 [September 2003]
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:15
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:18

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