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Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

12. The Institutional Architecture  

This chapter examines the pattern of European Union (EU) institutions and the formal rules that govern them. It first considers the Treaties that form the founding ‘constitutional’ documents of the EU, from the Treaty of Paris to the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the economic and monetary union (EMU), before turning to the main institutions involved in the processes of decision making, namely: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament, plus two consultative committees, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The chapter proceeds by analysing the Union method of decision making, focusing on the budgetary and legislative procedures, as well as the process on the Common Foreign and Security Policy. It also discusses the implementation of EU decisions once they have been made, and concludes with some reflections on the post-Lisbon institutional architecture of the EU, including differentiated integration.

Chapter

Cover The European Union

10. Current and Future Challenges  

Amelia Amelia, Daniel Kenealy, and Richard Corbett

As it moves into the third decade of the 21st century, the EU faces a number of new and unprecedented challenges–as well as some perennial ones. The chapter opens with a discussion of the challenges posed by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (Brexit). It goes on to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has catalysed a series of pre-existing internal and external policy challenges, as well as creating new ones. These in turn have raised questions about various aspects of the EU’s governance, from the size and scope of its budget to the quality of democracy across its member states; from the role of the Commission to decision-making rules in the Council. How well the EU responds to these many challenges will shape the future of the Union.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

3. The European Council:  

the Union’s supreme decision-maker

Luuk van Middelaar and Uwe Puetter

This chapter discusses the central role of the European Council in European Union (EU) politics and policymaking. Even though it was not listed among the EU’s core institutions until the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council regularly intervenes in EU decision-making to make other institutional actors follow its guidance. Initially, it was meant to be predominantly an informal institution for direct exchanges between the heads of state or government of the member states. Yet it assumed responsibility for landmark decisions which paved the way for key steps in integration, such as EU enlargements and the euro. The European Council has arguably saved the Union from break-up by acting as its ultimate crisis manager and, at times, has skirted the boundaries of EU law by finding institutional compromises and fixes. The institution plays a guiding role, especially in relation to the Commission and the Council of the European Union, which was formerly known as the Council of Ministers. The European Council devises strategic guidelines for policy development, shapes processes of institutional reform, and breaks impasses when agreement cannot otherwise be found. Since the Treaty of Maastricht, European Council intervention has become a routine in new EU policy areas, such as euro area economic governance and foreign policy. The Treaty of Lisbon assigns the European Council its own full-time president and places the institution right after the European Parliament (EP) in the list of EU institutions. Even though it has shaped European integration since 1975, the European Council did not find much recognition in traditional theories of European integration. This has changed more recently, with renewed debate about intergovernmentalism in EU politics.

Chapter

Cover Policy-Making in the European Union

1. An Overview  

Mark A. Pollack, Christilla Roederer-Rynning, and Alasdair R. Young

The European Union represents a remarkable, ongoing experiment in the collective governance of a multinational continent of nearly 450 million citizens and 27 member states. The key aim of this volume is to understand the processes that produce EU policies: that is, the decisions (or non-decisions) by EU public authorities facing choices between alternative courses of public action. We do not advance any single theory of EU policy-making, although we do draw extensively on theories of European integration, international cooperation, comparative politics, and contemporary governance; and we identify five ‘policy modes’ operating across the 15 case study chapters in the volume. This chapter introduces the volume by summarizing our collective approach to understanding policy-making in the EU, identifying the significant developments that have impacted EU policy-making since the seventh edition of this volume, and previewing the case studies and their central findings.