The European Council: Gatekeeper of the European Community

The European Council: Gatekeeper of the European Community

The European Council: Gatekeeper of the European Community

The European Council: Gatekeeper of the European Community

Excerpt

Almost seventeen years after the institutions of the Treaty of Rome set up operations as the European Economic Community, a little noticed event occurred. In December 1974, heads of government announced their intentions to meet regularly on Community affairs and called themselves the European Council. At Maastricht, The Netherlands, in December 1991, the same body made history, unveiling a treaty for the Political Union of Europe. Public doubts over the Maastricht plans to add more federal elements to the EC heightened the Council role to an even greater extent. Attempting to recover Community legitimacy in December 1992, the Edinburgh Summit responded to citizens' concerns. The Community's highest politicians made decisions about setting more realistic EC financing objectives during the economic downturn. They considered as well decentralizing and democratizing EC decisionmaking while better informing the public about Community activities and processes.

Already the utmost authority on difficult sovereignty issues, constitutional matters, financing, enlargement, foreign policy and other political subjects, heads of government now expand their role into new territory. Clearly, they see themselves as the most important link between the Community and national constituents, recently accepting more responsibility for socializing citizens in the values and culture of the Community.

Now almost two decades old and essential to the present-day Community, the European Council, despite its standing as an extraTreaty institution, has undergone remarkable institutionalization. However, questions about its legitimacy and proper function in relation to previously existing EC institutions still crop up.

This work considers the extent to which the Council has become institutionalized and its impact on the Community. To what extent has it established predictable patterns of behavior (i.e., processes of . . .

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