Playing for the same team? The trio Presidency and agenda-management in European Union sport policy

2016-06-03T13:27:52Z (GMT) by Mads de Wolff
In 2007 the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) was reformed by the introduction of the so-called trio Presidency . The trio mechanism encourages policy continuity by grouping incumbent Presidencies in teams of three and inviting them to coordinate. This thesis seeks to contribute original knowledge on EU policy-making by mapping how trio practices are established, exploring which factors explain how Member States coordinate, and by assessing how the trio arrangement affects the EU agenda. Empirically, the trio function is examined through its implementation in the policy area of sport, focusing on the three trios to assume office after the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The analysis is structured around a number of carefully selected dossiers adopted between 2010 and 2013. Guided by a conceptual framework based on agenda-setting and new institutionalism, these decisions are submitted to in depth process-tracing. The analysis draws on qualitative research, primarily official documents and 37 semi-structured interviews. The findings reveal that actors approach the trio with differing preferences and expectations, leading to much variation in how the arrangement is performed. The thesis identifies a number of factors that explain variation. Thus, a fixed agenda supports trios in coordinating priorities and activities ex ante. Moreover, coordination is conditioned by trio composition, as federal and new Member States are more inclined to cooperate. Further, trio practices are shaped by factors such as multiannual planning and focusing events, with the intenseness of trio coordination reflecting whether the agenda includes issues that demand sustained attention. The thesis concludes that the introduction of the trio mechanism has preserved the ability of Member States to use the Council Presidency to prioritise national priorities whilst also encouraging and facilitating EU policy continuity. By extending agenda-management beyond a six month spell, the trio can strengthen the agenda-setting powers of incumbent Member States, particularly on issues that concern establishing urgent responses or developing Council procedures. Moreover, evidence suggests that the arrangement can produce a specific spirit of collegiality, trio solidarity, which sees trio Member States support each other during negotiations, thus affecting EU policy-making beyond agenda-management.