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 the EU Leaders' Agenda 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 the EU Leaders' Agenda
The new publication will complement rather than replace the Post-Summit Briefings which 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 to adopt Conclusions. These meetings are not however the only context in which the EU’s leaders discuss the Union’s strategy and decisions are shaped. On the contrary, the ‘confrontation of viewpoints’ amongst the leaders is a process which never stops and which takes place in many different multilateral and bilateral contexts. In the Commentary series, Peter Ludlow and a network of external collaborators will therefore analyse this ongoing dialogue and the political, economic and social forces which drive it.
Given the importance of events in shaping the Leaders’ Agenda, it is impossible to predict precisely whether, let alone when and in what order, particular topics will be discussed. In January 2020 for example the leaders did not know that their conversation would be dominated for many months by the pandemic. Similarly, two years later, although the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine was clearly dangerous, it was not obvious that war was inevitable, let alone that the military narrative would work out in the way that it has done and require the kinds of response in so many different policy areas that the leaders have had to give to it.
The subject matter of this series is bound therefore to be both unpredictable and varied. Decisions about which policy areas we should cover will not however depend on the arbitrary preferences of individual authors.
Firstly, because most if not all the principal themes of the EU’s policy are recurrent.
Secondly, because the direction of the Commentary will be shared. (see annex)
Thirdly, because the Commentary will be anchored in EuroComment’s new EU Priorities Group.
The series will be launched in conjunction with the first meeting of the EU Priorities Group in Brussels in May when we shall publish two in depth analyses of approximately 5000 words each. The topics on the agenda at that meeting will be:
1. The Leaders and their Agenda. (Peter Ludlow)
2. War, IRA and China: the EU’s policy options since 24 February, 2022. (Jacob Kierkegaard)
3. The geopolitical, political and economic implications of Ukraine’s application to join the EU. (Pierre Mirel)
4. The MFF Review (Beda Romano)
5. Preparing for the Winter: EU and member state energy policy in 2023/2024 (Jorge Vasconcelos)
6. War and Peace: the current situation and the immediate and medium-term priorities (Pierre Vimont)
7. Climate Change: present realities and future prospects WHO?
8. Capital Markets Union (Thomas Wieser)
9. Migration policy (Hugo Brady and/or Michael Spindelegger in Vienna)
10. Eastern Mediterranean Security (Marc Pirini now with Carnegie))
11. The Global South: the EU, the EIB, the EBRD and the reform of the international financial institutions (Werner Hoyer)
12. Choosing the EU’s new leaders: priorities and options in 2024. (Peter Ludlow)
13. What can be done about and with the EEAS? (Stefan Lehne)
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 European economy
This section will analyse and assess the leaders’ discussions about the EU economy both inside and beyond meetings of the European Council and the Euro Summit.
Part 3. Europe’s internal and external security
This section will focus on the leaders’ discussions and decisions regarding internal and external security, including justice and home affairs, foreign policy and defence.
Part 4. 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.
A list of external collaborators who are associated with this project can be found below in the Authors and Advisers to the Monthly Commentary box.
Decisions about who should write which parts of the Review can only be taken however when the editorial team (below) has had a chance to review developments during the year with which the volume is dealing.
Members of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review
Piers Ludlow, Professor of International History at the LSE
Emmanuel Morlon-Druol, Professor of History of European Integration, EUI, Florence
Andreas Rödder, Professor of Contemporary History, Mainz
Mateusz Szczurek, Professor of Economics, Warsaw
Jan Van der Harst, Professor of European Integration, Groningen
Laurent Warlouzet. Professor of European Integration History at the Sorbonne
Andreas Wirsching, Professor, Director of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich (tbc)
The Monthly Commentary: Authors and Advisers as of early May 2023
Peter Ludlow, Chairman EuroComment
Poul Christoffersen, former Danish permanent representative
Jim Cloos, Secretary General of TEPSA, formerly Director General in EU Council Secretariat
Tony Connolly, Brussels correspondent of the RTE
Uwe Corsepius, former EU adviser of the German chancellor
Gilles Gressani and others associated with Le Grand Continent
Daniel Gros, former Director of CEPS, Brussels
Declan Kelleher, former Irish permanent representative
Jacob Kierkegaard, Peterson Institute of International Economics
Stefan Lehne, Carnegie Institute. Former Director General for Political Affairs in the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Beda Romano, Brussels correspondent of 24 Ore
Holger Schmieding, Chief Economist, Berenberg Bank
Jorge Vasconcelos, President of NEWES and former Energy Regulator, Portugal
Robert Vass, President of Globsec, Bratislava and members of Globsec’s Network
Pierre Vimont, Carnegie Institute, former French permanent representative and secretary general of the EEAS
Nicholas Whyte, Head of Global Solutions Programme, APCO, Brussels
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 contact us via email using the button below.