Assessing the role of the European Council and the European Commission during the migration and COVID-19 crises

Moloney, David and Princen, Sebastiaan (2023). Assessing the role of the European Council and the European Commission during the migration and COVID-19 crises. West European Politics [Early Access].

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2023.2225403

Abstract

Over the past decades, ‘emergency politics’ has become a quasi-permanent feature of the European Union (EU). According to some, this has reinforced the trend towards a greater role for the European Council (EUCO) in EU agenda-setting, to the detriment of the European Commission (Commission). In this article, this claim is critically assessed by analysing two major crises: the 2015-2016 migration crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. By systematically tracing the various agenda-setting roles played by EU actors in these crises, two claims are made. First, using a more fine-grained typology of agenda-setting roles, the relationship between EUCO and the Commission is shown to be more nuanced than is often suggested. Second, EUCO and the Commission cannot be considered monolithic players. Instead, actors within these institutions operate outside of formal channels to purse their own policy goals. This puts in doubt the usefulness of focussing on the EUCO-Commission relationship in a purely inter-institutional sense.

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