The European Council in the Era of Crises
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The European Council in the Era of Crises

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Jan Werts brings a unique perspective to the European Council. As a journalist, he has reported on the spot from virtually every European Council meeting since the start in the 1970s, a witness to countless episodes of last-minute arm-twisting and creative compromise. As a scholar, he wrote the first ever doctoral dissertation on the European Council, published in 1992. In 2008 another book carried the story forward to the verge of the start of the permanent presidency. In this latest book, against the background of the broad sweep of the history of the European Council, he focuses especially on the sequence of crises that began around the time of his previous book the Greek debt and broader euro crises, the migration and refugee crisis, Brexit and Covid among them.

Jan Werts interviewed a galaxy of EU insiders whose assessments are extensively quoted in the text. He describes with realism, candour and some sympathy how the leaders, their officials and advisers battled against crises that at times seemed to threaten the European project itself.

The institutional development of the European Council since its formal upgrading to an EU institution and the inauguration of the full-time presidency in 2009 is also a major theme. As Werts explains, while the European Council is by definition primarily intergovernmental in character, it has also become firmly embedded in the institutional architecture of the Union and in practice the main driver of EU integration, giving this the legitimacy that only the national leaders can provide.

The book is divided into eight main parts. Part 1 offers an overview of the history and increase in powers of the European Council. Part 2 looks at how it has worked to resolve a succession of crises over the last decade and Part 3 assesses its role as provider of direction and leadership for the Union as a whole. Part 4 explores how the European Council has at times been the architect of its own failures. Parts 5 and 6 explain its mechanisms and procedures and how meetings are conducted, including what goes on behind the scenes. Part 7 considers the relationship with the other EU institutions and the changing balance of power, and Part 8 sums up with a series of key conclusions.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 424 pages
  • 156 x 234mm
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 1838089845
  • 9781838089849

Table of contents

Foreword, by Herman Van Rompuy
Preface, by Jan Werts

PART I: THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL: FROM 'FIRESIDE CHAT' TO CENTRE OF EUROPEAN GOVERNANCE

1. The European Council in our time
2. Since 2010: more crisis manager than strategic leader
3. Preamble to the European Council
4. The lifecycle of the European Council
5. A 'Provisional European Government'?

PART II: RESOLVER OF CRISES
1. Economic government: how the leaders rescued the euro
2. Migration, Justice and Home Affairs: areas of permanent crisis
3. Brexit: a never-ending drama
4. The COVID-19 crisis

PART III: PROVIDER OF DIRECTION AND LEADERSHIP
1. Constitutional strategy
2. Foreign policy: a constant but problematic preoccupation
3. Financing the EU: complex negotiations on the MFF
4. Enlargement: accessions that proved difficult to manage
5. Energy and climate policy: a carbon-neutral economy by 2050
6. Appointments
7. The single market: a mixed story

PART IV: ARCHITECT OF ITS OWN MISTAKES AND FAILURES
1. EMU without a toolbox for crises
2. Schengen without reliable closed external borders
3. A deadlocked migration and refugee policy
4. The EU's foreign policy: a 'mission impossible'
5. The Lisbon Strategy that flopped and other flawed projects
6. Legitimacy and Brexit
7. Some reasons behind the blunders and failures

PART V: MECHANISMS AND ORGANISATIONAL RULES
1. An overview of the tasks and functions of the European Council
2. The legal status of the European Council since the Lisbon Treaty
3. The Euro Summit: a new phenomenon
4. The crucial agenda-setting of the meetings
5. The stepping stones to the conclusions: the summits' centrepiece
6. The number, venue, and formats of the summits

PART VI: THE COURSE AND CONDUCT OF THE MEETINGS
1. The participants: a doubling of the membership
2. Decision-making in the European Council
3. The foremost decision-makers of the European Council
4. Some defining moments for the permanent presidents
5. The dominance of France and Germany

PART VII: A STRAINED RELATIONSHIP.
THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL AND OTHER EU INSTITUTIONS
1. The Commission - now subservient, or a more complex picture?
2. The shallow relationship with the European Parliament
3. The lost key role of the Council of Ministers
4. The increasing voice of the Court of Justice (ECJ)
5. Birth of a 'Union method' of decision-making:
intergovernmentalism plus Community method

PART VIII: FINAL CONCLUSIONS
1. The unstoppable advance of the European Council in perspective
ANNEX 1: List of summit meetings
ANNEX 2: Bibliography
Index
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