This chapter examines the European Commission’s functions and structure, along with its role in policy making. The Commission initiates legislation, may act as a mediator, manages some policy areas, is guardian of the Treaties, is a key actor in international relations, and the ‘conscience of the European Union’. The chapter proceeds by discussing the debate on the extent to which the Commission is an autonomous political actor or simply an agent of the member states. Finally, it analyses the increasing challenges faced by the Commission in securing effective implementation of EU policies and its response to concerns over its financial management of EU programmes.
Elisabetta Brighi and Christopher Hill
This chapter examines the ‘implementation phase’ of foreign policy making — that is, the period in which decisions are translated into action. It first considers the theoretical problems involved in deciding where a foreign policy action ends and its environment begins. It then explores the range of problems encountered by states when trying to implement their foreign policies, as well as the instruments — diplomatic, military, economic, and cultural — at their disposal. In particular, it explains the distinction between power as a means and power as a context. It concludes by highlighting the endless loops that connect — and blur together — ends and means in foreign policy, along with the key lessons which practitioners need to bear in mind. The chapter argues that foreign policy decisions are best understood through the strategic–relational model.
Making the European Union’s International Relations Work
Michael E. Smith
This chapter examines the policy instruments used by the European Union to translate its common interests into collective action in the international arena. It first considers the problem of implementation in EU foreign policy before discussing the EU's own resources in external relations/third countries as well as the role of member states' resources in EU's external relations. It then explores the instruments of EU foreign policy, which can be grouped into diplomatic, economic, and military/civilian capabilities. It also analyses the credibility and capability gaps in the EU's policy implementation, noting that there exists a key divide between the ‘low politics’ of economic affairs and the ‘high politics’ of security/defence affairs. The chapter suggests that the EU's unique capacity for policy implementation in the area of international relations can be very erratic.
Contending Dynamics of Policy Change
This chapter focuses on the European Union’s environmental policy, the development of which was characterized by institutional deepening and the substantial expansion of environmental issues covered by EU decisions and regulations. Environmental policy presents a host of challenges for policy-makers, including the choice of appropriate instruments, improvement of implementation performance, and better policy coordination at all levels of policy-making. The chapter points to the continuing adaptations that have been made in these areas. It first considers the historical evolution of environmental policy in the EU before discussing the main actors in EU environmental policy-making, namely: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and environmental interest groups. The chapter also looks at the EU as an international actor.