Conference Agenda

Panel 104: The European Council: an EU institution going beyond its Treaty roles?!
Monday, 06/Sept/2021:
9:30am - 11:00am

Session Chair: Desmond Dinan, George Mason University


The European Council: an EU institution going beyond its Treaty roles?!

Chair(s): Desmond Dinan (Jean Monnet Professor, George Mason School of Public Policy, Arlington, Virginia, US)

This panel will focus on a central EU institution, the European Council, and its evolving powers, roles and working methods. The European Council became a formal institution following to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2009. While many of its formal responsibilities are limited, in reality the European Council plays a crucial political role throughout the entire policy cycle and in managing various challenges confronting the EU. This panel will discuss how the European Council influences different phases of the policy cycle and deals with other issues, and if its contributions are in accord with the Treaty’s provisions. In particular, the role of crisis manager is not mentioned in the Treaty. This panel will look, therefore, at how the European Council shaped this role during several recent crises. Panellists will also examine how the European Council modernised and optimised its working methods over time. The European Council has been at the centre of many core developments of the EU in recent years such as setting the EU’s strategic agenda, deciding on the EU’s institutional leadership, Brexit and the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations. The panel will explore how the European Council managed to build consensus and maintain unity on such major challenges to EU integration.


Presentations of the Symposium


The different roles of the European Council in the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework

Ralf Drachenberg
European Parliamentary Research Service

The European Council uses the conclusions of its formal meetings to exercise influence in the different stages of the policy cycle. According to the Treaties, the European Council's primary role is to 'define the general political directions and priorities' (Article 15(1) of the Treaty on European Union). Additionally it carries out other roles throughout the policy cycle, some of which are not mentioned in the treaty and others specifically prohibited, and have been labelled as ‘legislative trespassing’. A prime example of overstepping its treaty based role(s) can be found in the European Council’s involvement in the negotiations of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

The objective of this paper is to outline the different roles of the European Council in the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework. It will first outline the different de jure and de facto roles of the European Council, such as agenda-setter, crisis manager and decision-maker, which the European Council plays in the different stages of the policy cycle. Taking these different roles and phases of the policy cycle into account, it will then analyse the European Council’s activity during the negotiations for the 2021-27 Multiannual financial framework (MFF). The paper will also indicate how the European Council’s involvement was similar or different to its activities during the previous MFF negotiations.


The European Council and Crisis Management: the rise of a key EU institution?

Suzana Anghel, Ralf Drachenberg
European Parliamentary Research Service

This paper considers how the European Council has shaped, outside of the Treaty, its crisis manager role during several recent crises, placing itself at the centre of the EU’s institutional framework. The paper will identify the main differences between previous crises – economic, migration and foreign policy – and the on-going coronavirus crisis. It will consider the nature – external/domestic, sectorial/horizontal – of the different crises as well as the European Council’s (in)ability to anticipate them. It will analyse the European Council’s behaviour, reactivity, unity, as well as its short and long-term responses to crises. The paper will assess the impact crises had/have on EU policies, its multi-level governance system and integration. The paper will also examine how the European Council changed its working methods and assess their resilience. Ultimately, the paper will touch on the role successive European Council presidents have played in crisis times, their strive for unity and a common response to crises.