What is your focus? The European Council and the Commission’s policy priorities

Petya Alexandrova (University of Oxford)

Serving as the EU’s dual executive, the European Council and the Commission occupy key roles in shaping the EU’s policy agenda. But do all issues garner the same attention from these institutions? Petya Alexandrova notes that the European Council and the Commission appear to specialize in different policy domains. In her article “Institutional issue proclivity in the EU: the European Council vs the Commission” published in the Journal of European Public Policy she finds evidence that the European Council has specialized in soft law issue areas, including social policy, foreign affairs and macroeconomics, whereas the Commission is predominantly active in areas subject to exclusive and shared EU competences. The Commission’s domain, however, appears to be temporally vulnerable to inroads by the European Council, particularly when it comes to energy and business. Petya’s analysis suggests that “crises with wide-ranging and long-term consequences affecting all member states at the same time, like the global economic and financial crisis, appear to act as a driver for European Council preoccupation with particular topics.” Such crises may trigger the European Council to devote increased attention on issues typically within the Commission’s domain.