European Union Negotiations: Processes, Networks and Institutions

By Ole Elgström; Christer Jönsson | Go to book overview
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Introduction

Christer Jönsson and Ole Elgström

The European Union has been described as a 'negotiated order' (Smith 1996), a 'permanent negotiation institute' (Bal 1995:1) and a 'negotiation marathon' (Kohler-Koch 1996:367). The EU policy process is dependent on negotiations as a mode of reaching agreements on, and implementing, common policies. This volume represents an effort to characterize these negotiation processes. EU negotiations differ from traditional international negotiations in several respects. At the same time, they are not immediately comparable to negotiations taking place within states. What, then, are the distinguishing features of these 'hybrid' EU negotiations? This is the first overarching question addressed in the volume. The continuity and institutionalization of negotiation processes as well as the involvement of a variety of actors besides governments, often linked in informal networks, are illuminated in the contributions.

A second pervasive theme concerns the variety of negotiations in the European Union. All negotiation processes do not look alike. What, then, are the determinants of this variety? First, the European Union remains a constantly changing phenomenon and should be understood as a process rather than a frozen organization. The policy process thus looks different depending on when you look at it. Another common notion in the EU literature is that the policy process varies with issue-areas. The European Union has been characterized as a 'prismatic political system', in which rays of activity and authority are scattered or focused differently in various policy areas (Laffan et al. 2000:199). Moreover, a distinction must be made between negotiations among various actors within the European Union and negotiations where the European Union figures as a negotiating party externally. The contributions to this volume allude to, yet go beyond, these common distinctions based on time, issue-areas or the European Union as negotiation arena as opposed to negotiating actor. For instance, the authors explore the impact of different stages in the policy process, distributive as compared to norm negotiations and the nature of the external negotiating partner.

Negotiations, networks and institutions are the key concepts around which this volume is organized. Negotiation can be regarded as one identifiable mode of joint decision making, to be distinguished from coalition, when the choice is made by numerical aggregation (such as voting), and adjudication, when the choice is made hierarchically by a judge who aggregates conflicting values and interests into a

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