EuroComment’s publications and meetings have always been concerned with the EU Leaders’ Agenda. In 2023, we plan to sharpen this focus still further:

  • by launching two new publications, a Monthly Commentary on EU Strategy and an Annual European Council Review

  • by anchoring these new publications in a new EU Priorities Working Group.

The reason for continuing to focus our work on the EU’s Leaders as group rather than the President of the Commission or the heads of state or government in two or three member states ought to be obvious enough but is nevertheless worth re-stating. The European Council is at the heart of the EU’s system of government.
 

As Emile Noel, the first secretary general of the European Commission observed in an essay which was published in 1971, the EU system, ‘being based on dialogue, bears little resemblance to then concept of government in the traditional sense of the word. The Community does not have a single head or a single leader. Decisions are collective and taken only after much confrontation of viewpoints’. When Noel wrote, the fixed point at the centre of this dialogue-based system was Coreper, the committee of permanent representatives of the member states. Since 1975, however, the European Council, which is serviced by Coreper, has replaced the latter and its Conclusions, which Jacques Delors once compared in importance to the articles of the Treaties, define what both the EU institutions and the member states can and should do.


The aim of both our publications and meetings programme is thus to keep track of this dialogue amongst the leaders, to evaluate its importance and to criticise it and where appropriate to suggest alternative directions.

The Leaders’ Agenda

The Pre-Summit Briefings

These are short notes of approximately 2000 words written by Peter Ludlow, which appear on the evening before every meeting of the European Council and explain its agenda and anticipate its likely outcome.

The Post-Summit Briefings

Appearing seven days after each meeting of the heads of state and government, these notes of approximately 5000 words in length provide a comprehensive analysis of the discussion and its outcome. Based on oral and documentary sources which are not normally available, they provide a unique and authoritative insight into decision-making at the heart of the EU.

The Monthly Commentary on EU Strategy

The Monthly Commentary will complement rather than replace EuroComment’s Post-Summit Briefings. 

The Briefings are concerned with the debate at European Council meetings, the focus of which is largely determined by what the Presidency decides that the leaders should discuss and by the pressure at all except the informal meetings to adopt Conclusions. 

The focus of Commentary series will be wider-ranging and more open-ended. As leaders, the heads of state or government and the president of the Commission can and do discuss strategic questions amongst themselves regardless of whether or not they figure on the next European Council’s agenda. Through the Monthly Commentary, we will highlight and comment on some of the more important features of this ongoing discussion. We will also discuss how and how well the leaders have followed up on their own Conclusions. And, as and when appropriate, we will draw attention to questions which the leaders ought to be discussing.

The subject matter of this series will therefore be very varied. Decisions about which themes we ought or ought not to cover will not however depend on the arbitrary preferences of individual authors. Firstly, because the Commentary series will be steered by an editorial team of authors and advisers who will consult with each other before decisions about subject matter are taken. And secondly because the Commentary will be anchored in the new EU Priorities Group in and through which the authors will be exposed to the scrutiny of senior figures in the EU institutions, the member states, the business community, the academic world and the media.  

A full list of members of the editorial team will be published before the end of 2022.

The European Council Annual Review

Like the Monthly Commentary, the Annual Review is a new publication. It too will be written by a team of authors rather than an individual. 

Each volume will cover developments during the whole of the previous year. In doing so, it will of course draw on the Post-Summit Briefings and Commentaries which appeared during this year. Its scope will however be wider.

Each volume is likely to be divided into four sections. 
 

Part 1, The narrative. 
This section, which will be written by Peter Ludlow and/or his successor, will synthesise and where appropriate revise the narrative in the previous year’s Post-Summit Briefings and Commentaries.  

 

Part 2. The politics of the European Council. 
This section will focus on the politics of the European Council, including changes in the balance of power within the EU; the roles played by individual leaders and party political, regional and bilateral groups; inter-institutional relations; the impact of political, social and economic changes including unanticipated challenges of the kind that the EU faced during the migration crisis in 2015, the pandemic in 2020-21 and is currently facing in the Ukrainian war.

 

Part 3. The domestic agenda
The section on the European Council’s domestic agenda will be selective rather than comprehensive. The European Council’s Conclusions and the Statements by the Euro Summit are shorter than they used to be, but they still cover a lot of issues, some of which are less important than others. 

 

Part 4.  The external agenda
This section too will take what the leaders actually discussed in the European Council and the summits with the EU’s key partners as its point of departure. The aim will however be wider and deeper: to assess what the leaders’ debate and the actions that stemmed from it tell us about the EU’s understanding of its actual and potential role in the world.

 

A list of potential contributors will be published before the end of 2022. Decisions about who should write which parts of the Review can only be taken however when the editorial team has had a chance to review developments during the year with which the volume is dealing.
 

Papers written by Peter Ludlow since 2000 can be made available for scholars. The price varies but most of the Briefing Notes evaluating one or more European Council meeting cost €40 while a whole year of evaluations can be bought for €200. If interested please use the button below.