Page 1

REPORT INTRODUCTION From the 1st of January 2010 Spain is the President of Council of the European Union for six months, however this member states is not absolutely alone the chairing role of the Council. A new phase of the EU has started in terms of the rotating presidencies of the Council, which are put into three consecutive groups. This is a result of a relatively new EU Presidency called TRIO, which is been happening since 2007 but not in official shape. Under the new patterns of interaction governing Europe, the novel framework formalized by the Lisbon Treaty set up a cooperational program of work for eighteen months aiming to create a supranational and ephemeral association within the Council Presidencies. Hence, the Spanish Presidency is the first of three consecutive presidencies that will endeavor to provide greater continuity to the initiatives and work of the EU. Connected to the above EU institutional new context, a university decision making simulation is been performed in the lower level of the Council. A working group formed by the Spanish Presidency, the representatives of the European Commission and the other two members of the Trio Presidency; Belgium and Hungary have been involved in discussions and meetings run by experts in gender equality and electric vehicles. This second report of the EU decision making simulation is a reflexive and analytical work which involves a range of different aspects and perspectives in order to summarize and assess the simulation performance, and also attempt to understand in which political decision making context it underwent. This report is completed by an abnormal cluster of sections, which initially are trying to contextualized the reader in the elected EU scenario; secondly is attempting to linked the academic examination of working groups with the relevant aspects of the simulation; thirdly and more particularly will be presented a summary of relevant points which came across the simulation from the European Commission, as well as main aspects in the two areas selected by the Spanish Presidency; gender equality and electric vehicles through the evaluation of two roadmaps.


Introduction to TRIO In September 2006 the EU Council amended its rules of procedure, and therefore every eighteen months the rotator presidency of the Council of the European Union is formed by a group of three member states. They will be chairing the Council and will draw up a joint program of activities in cooperation with the European Commission. The figure of the trio presidency intends to reinforce the continuity of the activities of Council and provide increased durability to the initiatives discussed within it. Currently, the European Union is under the Presidency Trio formed by Spain, Belgium and Hungary from January 2010 until June 2011. This is a novel EU framework supported by the article 2.4 of internal regalement of the Council in order to implement to work done the consecutive presidencies. In this way, add to the establishment of ordinary priorities for the presidency, this new procedure attempts to promote coordination, coherence and continuity in political action that involves the establishment of the trio presidency.

Council of the EU The Council of the EU is the heart of this decision making process, and where the working groups are placed. This is the supreme decision-making body and has legislative power and policy-making power. It can be considered as the main source of legislation in the EU, sharing the political power with the European Commission and European Parliament. And also, it has become a place of ongoing negotiation and recurrent intra-European forum. It is the intersection of the legislative power of Parliament to which constantly send reports, and executive powers of the Commission which maintains a constant dialogue. Moreover, the Council is projected to act as a countervailing and intergovernmental policy-making institution. Nevertheless, there are critiques about the role played by Council in the EU area. In one hand, there are some observers that perceive the Council as an obstruction to the European Integration, frequently impeding brilliant ideas from the Commission or the EP to become policies, and permitting partial and narrow-minded member state´s national interests succeed over common European concerns. On the other hand, the Council represents a source of common sense and appropriated political criteria rescuing the member states and their citizens from striving and exaggerated European proposals, and the government of the EU´s capital.1

1 Fiona Hayes-Renshaw and H. Wallace, The Council of Ministers, 2nd Edition, Palgrave, London. 2 Sloot and Verschuren, 1990, pp.64-5


Working Groups As a result of the increased number of decisions that must be taken within the European Union and particularly since the Single European Act in 1987 and the Treaty on European Union in 1992 a network of working groups were born within the Council2. These bodies are responsible for preparing the subsequent discussions, which are going to be taken in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and in the Council itself. Hence, it was the arise of working groups who face a functioning system marked by very precise and complex issues which have to be dispatched rapidly. Moreover, these working groups are characterized by officials and experts coming from the Permanent Representations of member states; national civil servants; as well as employees of the Commission and the Council workforce.3

3 Jan Beyers and Guido Dierickx, 1998, The Working Groups of the Council of the European Union: Supranational or Intergovernn mental, Journal of Common Market Studies; Sep 1998, Vol.36, p289.


ANALISIS OF COUNCIL WORKING GROUPS Negotiation behavior Working groups for some authors are an extremely important part of the EU integration process illustrated by the workload imposed on them, and another other factor to take into account is the concentrated frequency of working groups meetings. At a deeper glance, these meetings are attended by technical experts and specialized personnel whom work together in a specific political area4. Consequently, the academic literature stated that the leading tone in these meetings is an attitude of co-operation and mutual understanding, in other words a ´spirit of corps´ which means that the representatives of the member states and European institutions are willing to co-operate with each other5. It is a fact that the simulation is been characterized by a general desire of collaboration and mutual understanding. Across the performance played by the different actors of the simulation, mutual will for success and enlightened comprehension of the several issues by the members of the working groups marked the negotiation behavior of it. Therefore, confrontations between the participants of the working group is a minor aspect, and the clash of the parties involved is a sideshow and has not affected the overall dynamics of the simulation. Conversely, issues such as the standardization of the plugs and sockets and the paternal leave conditions could be classified as the toughest simulations´ point to reach consensus, but have not prevented that the simulation is being developed in a spirit of transnational cooperation.

Rationalist vs Neo-institutionalist Furthermore, there is an academic debate between two schools of thought in terms of how relevant the Council working groups are. The rationalist standpoint argues that the working groups have formal significance, however they do not contain a real heaviness or accountability in the policy making since they are simply communication canals. Moreover, these theorists point out that the components of the working groups are limited by political, economic, and social national biddings. According to this rationalist understanding, there were issues in the simulation 4 Sasse et at, 1977; Pag 1977; Wessels, 1991; Westlakes, 1995; Kerremans, 1996) 5 Kerremans, 1996, pp.233-4


and occasions where the national preferences participated in the discussion in an obvious way. For instance, the hopeless financial situation of Hungary made to its representatives carries out austere and non-enthusiastic position regarding to the Commission´s proposal attempting to achieve a mainstream commitment within the working group to implement the infrastructure of electric vehicles. It was also a patent element of this the rationalist positioning from Hungary the fact that every taxation´s implementation issue which would affect to its citizens was classified by Hungarians representatives as undoable and they expressed total confrontation to it. In addition, the neo-institutionalism stance attributes a major role to working groups in the EU decision-making, and they are the grounds where draft legislation begins to be resistant to change and starts approaching to a compromise. Therefore, these bodies affect the organic element of the EU´s generally institutional structure, and they are highly institutionalized. “…, members of Council working groups go beyond the mere function of negotiating between pre-existing interests. Instead they contribute to redefining European public problems, the rules and norms that structure negotiation and sometimes even the very identities of the actors involves.6” According to Neo-institutionalist perception, working groups are a place where opinions are mixed national and supranational. Thus, the working groups are presented as a place of confluence of different perspectives and shape national and intergovernmental stage. This is because the task of the working groups is to unite the governments of member states in European decision process, the allocation to the European areas of technical experts from different countries, and the creation of an acceptance of European laws and their respective programs in the different member states.

The Measurement of the power Power is a recurrent and interesting subject to examine the in context of working groups, and in particular in the simulation of the Trio. However, the concept of power is too general, and it is necessary to make an approach to the Council working group scenario. Academics have defined power as the capacity to influence events towards desirable outcome, as well as power is frequently ascribed to an actor who benefits from a given result.7

6 Eves Fouilleux, et al, “ Technical or political? The working groups of the EU Council of Ministers”, Journal of European Public Policy 12:4 August 2005: 609-623


In addition, the decision making process in the Council according to academics is distinguished by two different process; hard bargaining and consensual process8. According to these two concepts, the working parties in the Council present the common will to cede in some extent on individual perceptions of the discussion, since they understand the importance to achieve consensus in the benefit of the process. In other words, the individuals involved in the decision-making process are aware of the consensual aspect of the meetings, and they will be proactive to achieve an agreement on the requirement to adopt any step forward to implement the EU legislation. Therefore, it is being latent in the simulation that hypothesis about the working groups desire to reach an agreement is powerfully favored by them. This feature was demonstrated through the simulation by all the participants, but mainly but the Spanish Presidency whom was following all the discussions trying to accomplish any kind of goal planned. On the contrary, the hard bargaining facet is the other main aspect in the working groups of the Council. Every single actor in the simulation has persevered on their positions and has tried to exploit any bargaining advantage. Different strategies and opinions were play in the simulation, and it presented occasions where the argumentation was characterized by elements of high bargaining aptitudes. An example of this general though was the Roma community issue, which different understandings were put on the table, and the consensus was unable to reach. Hence, the divisions over how to produce the wording of the roadmap in gender equality, and more specifically on the particular point of the Roma community shows that, sometimes these groups are arguably more interested in being re-elected in domestic or have are highly influence by their national problems and context. Hungary´s representatives expressed an outstanding stress including Roma community in the final wording of the documents, in order to protect its national group of Roma citizens.

Funds, Information and Rules Leaving aside the conception of academic and theoretical, there are three elements that form the main aspects in the simulation, and I believe these are the most important to highlight because they have prevailed in the decision process. These are money, information and rules.

7 Harsany, 1962; Dahl, 1968; Morris, 1987; Dowing,1996 8 Mattila and Lane, 2001; Lewis, 2003; Hayes-Renshaw and Wallace, 2006, Ch. 11


Through the analysis of documents produced in the simulation, it can be seen that these texts are generating the establishment of general framework or consensus among work the group integrate with respect to the following three points. First the money, this means establishing which will be funded body from political outcome. Second, the information, which is to present introductory or so trying to hold on which the above steps have been undertaken by the EU in such matters, as also reported the current situation in the field that has focused the working group. And finally we have the rules. This is the element in which the Commission plays a signature role, but in general terms and trying to analyze the overall dynamics of the group, the element of “the rules” is one that establishes which will be the measures to be carried out, and also on what policy framework will be developed. To conclude this examination of the simulation, it must be said that it all about the wording. The words really matter in the working groups. They work on the preliminary document that will be taken into account in further decision at higher levels. Therefore, in these two particular fields such as gender equality and electric vehicles, is the working groups documental outcomes that are going to be the base of the final political and administrative decisions. The preparatory meetings between technical experts create the basis, and subsequently them will be implementing and discussed, but the base of the decision-making resides in the work done by the working groups. This is the reason why at the end of the session, all the ideas and dynamics that are been presented in the meeting have to be placed in the document.


ANALISIS OF THE SIMULATION Dynamics The working group integrated with expertise from the Spanish Presidency, the European Commission, and the representatives of Hungary and Belgium have suffered with the development of main dynamic of confrontation between on one side the Spanish Presidency and the European Commission, and on the other side the other two participants of the working group such as Belgium and Hungary Firstly, the strategy developed by the Commission has been characterized by the pursuit of common good for the European Union. Throughout the simulation the Commission has sought to try to find a consensus among the participants of the meetings but has also boldly defended the aspects that are central to this institution and should be included in separate documents. It is worth noting that throughout the course has been producing an implicit partnership between the Commission and the Spanish Presidency, which generated a line of respect and mutual support, especially in the meetings on the standardization of electric vehicles. This axis had its main meeting point in the last week of the simulation, I tried to create a common agreement in order to block the views of Belgium regarding the standardization of certain aspects of future infrastructure will be developed by the EU in the field of electric vehicles. Secondly, the representatives of Hungary and Belgium form this second group, but they do not have any kind of alliance between them. It is on this side, as have staged similar strategies, but not joint. Thus, Belgium for its part has played a role in conflict and unsympathetic development done in the simulation. His position has always been characterized by the continual questioning of the proposals made by the Commission and the Spanish presidency, and his main concerns focused on the financing of the measures proposed by members of the working group. Thus, it has been rare in the participation and consensus has been characterized by its participation to a point of conflict in the development of the agendas proposed by the Chair. Hungarian representatives have played a peripheral role, and strongly influenced by the economic situation of the country, as also a relative lack of involvement in deci-

- 10 -

sions due to its relative novelty of fully participation in European club. Thus, their involvement in the issues discussed has been highly variable. Its general dynamics has not been characterized by a strong position on the table, however sometimes put forward crucial topics of the roadmaps.

- 11 -

CONCLUSION Europe is a market, a place where the different actors interact trading off. Policy making is other of the arenas where political players work together producing, selling and exchanging policies from the common good of the European citizens. The simulation of the Council working group under the Trio framework, and more particularly under the context of gender equality and electric vehicles has demonstrated another place where the intra-European trade operates. In these policy matters are a confusing world where, on one hand the different expertise intent to contribute into the creation of common and great European Union framework. And on the other hand the participants designated by the Permanent Representation of the different member states, in other words the Foreign Office, seem to behave as representatives of the home government. Consequently, the working groups represent both sides and are characterized by such as adverse features. The description from above illustrates in a simple way the complex and institutionalized scenario where working groups do their job in a formalized and supranational environment. The analysis of the report had try to present the highlights of the academic and empirical work done in this unknown part of the European Governance for the vast majority of the European citizens.

- 12 -

Bibliography Books Hayes-Renshaw, F., and H. Wallace, The Council of Ministers London: MacMillan Jorgensen, K.E. Pollack, M.A. & Rosamond, B., 2007. Handbook of European Union Politics. London: Sage Publications., pp. 339-259. Nugent, N., 2006. The Government and Politics of the European Union. 6th ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, pp.191-217 Peterson, J. Shackleton, M., 2002. The Institutions of the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.47-70 Walzenbach, G.P.E., 2006. European Governance. Policy Making between Politicization and Control. Hampshire: Ashgate., pp-1-53

Journals Beyers, J., 1998. The Working Groups of the Council of the European Union: Supranational or Intergovernmental Negotiations? Journal of Common Market Studies [Online] 36;3; 289 Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2010] Egeberg, Morten, Schaefer, GĂşnter F. and Trondal, Jarle., 2003. The Many Faces of EU Committee governance. West European Politics, [Online] 26:3, 19-40, Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2010] Fouilleux, Eves, de Maillard, Jacques and Smith, Andy., 2005. Technical or Political? The Working groups of the EU Council of Ministers, Journal of the European Public Policy, [Online] 12:4, 609-623, Available at: 501760500160102, [Accessed 18 May 2010] Warntjen, A., 2008. The Council Presidency: Power Broker or Burden? An Empirical Analysis. European Union Politics, [Online]. 9; 315, Available at: http://eup., [Accessed 17May 2010]

- 14 -


Summary of the working groups simulation

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you