‘ The European Council and European Governance’ by François Foret and Yann-Sven Rittelmeyer

the european council book

The European Council and European Governance: The Commanding Heights of the EU’ edited by François Foret and Yann-Sven Rittelmeyer

This book, part of the Routledge Studies on Government and the European Union series, provides an introduction to the institutional changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty, a perspective on the institutionalisation of the European Council, and insight into its emerging inter-institutional position.

In the introduction, the editors argue that analysis of policy-making during EU summits can shed light on underlying trends in European bureaucracies and political communities. The example of the European Council is used to help to understand the EU as ‘a source of law and formal or symbolic authority’. The editors note the constant process of institutionalisation within the EU institutions and conceptualise it as ‘triple normalisation of the EU’, formed by the EU system itself, the increasing diffusion of norms, and the impact on the everyday lives of European citizens.

The book is divided into three parts. The first chapters offer a historical overview of the Council and its institutional position, role, and agenda setting powers. The second part of the book offers some insight into developments triggered by the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, particularly the emerging patterns of cooperation between the EU two main decision making bodies, the Council and the European Council.  This section includes empirical accounts of the first presidencies held by Belgium, Hungary and Poland, and argues that the Lisbon Treaty provided only vague definitions of the new roles and thus triggered subsequent informal institutionalisation.

The third and final part of the book analysis the impact of the institutional changes on the prospects of increasing accountability and legitimacy of the EU, both in reference to the communicative dimension, and the EU’s complex system of leadership and compound representation.

The book is designed as a collection of articles advocating an interdisciplinary approach, and views the institutionalisation of the European Council through various theoretical lenses, such as historical, legal and sociological. This approach allows for interesting angles on the subject, but it also limits the possibility of arriving towards comprehensive conclusions. The final section would benefit from further elaboration by drawing comparison across various chapters and presenting some final conclusions. This would also allow for a single editorial voice. Nonetheless, the book will be of interest to researchers working on European studies, as well as more generally for scholars of political science, international relations, and in particular political sociology.

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