Special Issue: The politics of policy analysis: theoretical insights on real world problems

How can policy process research help to address policy and policymaking problems? This special issue of the Journal of European Public Policy seeks to address that question by examining the theory and practice of policy analysis. The call for papers sought state of the art articles that conceptualise the politics of policy analysis, and empirical studies that use theoretical insights to analyse and address real world problems. Contributions could draw on mainstream policy theories to explain how policymaking works, and/ or critical approaches that identify and challenge inequalities of power. Both approaches identify three general reference points or assumptions.

First, policy analysis is not a disinterested, objective search for truth and an optimal policy solution. It is not a technocratic process that can be separated from politics. Techniques such as cost-benefit analysis require technical skills, but are not a substitute for political debate. Therefore, phrases like ‘evidence based’ do not describe policymaking well.

Second, policy analysis is not part of a simple, orderly policy process. It does not contribute to a tightly managed policy cycle consisting of linear and clearly defined technical stages. Policymaking is a highly contested but unequal process. Many policymakers, analysts, and influencers cooperate or compete to use information selectively to define problems, and select policy solutions with inevitable winners and losers, in processes over which no actor has full understanding or control.

Third, optimal policy and linear policymaking are not good ideals anyway. The language of optimality depoliticises policy analysis and reduces attention to policy’s winners and losers. Simple images of policymaking suggest that policy problems are amenable to technical policy solutions. They downplay power and contestation. Ignoring or denying the politics of policy analysis is either naïve, based on insufficient knowledge of policymaking, or strategic, to exploit the benefits of portraying issues as technical and solutions as generally beneficial.

Further, governments are not in the problem solving business. Instead, they inherit policies that address some problems and create or exacerbate others, benefit some groups and marginalize others, or simply describe problems as too difficult to solve. The highest profile problems, such as global public health and climate change, require the kinds of (1) cooperation across many levels of government (and inside and outside of government), and (2) attention to issues of justice and equity, of which analysts could only dream.

This description of policymaking complexity presents a conundrum. On the one hand, there exist many five-step guides to analysis, accompanied by simple stage-based descriptions of policy processes, but they describe what policy actors would need or like to happen rather than policymaking reality. On the other, policy theory-informed studies are essential to explanation, but not yet essential reading for policy analysts. Policy theorists may be able to describe policy processes – and the role of policy analysts – more accurately than simple guides, but do not offer a clear way to guide action. Practitioner audiences are receptive to accurate descriptions of policymaking reality, but also want a take-home message that they can pick up and use in their work. Critical policy analysts may appreciate insights on the barriers to policy and policymaking change, but only if there is equal attention to how to overcome them.

We see this Special Issue as not only the source of five new articles (by Claudio M. Radaelli; Joshua Newman and Michael MintromJohanna Hornung; Kennet Lynggaard and Peter Triantafillou as well as Céline Mavrot, Susanne Hadorn and Fritz Sager) but also the spark for a longer term discussion about how to engage head-on with this theory-practice conundrum. In this more general project, we seek new research that can perform a dual purpose, to:

  1. improve policy theories and generate new empirical insights, and
  2. provide practical lessons to non-specialist audiences, many of whom would otherwise use too-simple models of policymaking to guide their understanding.

The following blog posts engage with these issues in five different ways:

Occupy the semantic space! Opening up the language of better regulation

Evidence-Based Policy, Artificial Intelligence, and the Ethical Practice of Policy Analysis

Social identities and deadlocked debates on nuclear energy policy

Discourse analysis and strategic policy advice: manoeuvring, navigating, and transforming policy

Blood, Sweat, and Cannabis: Real-World Policy Evaluation of Controversial Issues  

You can also read the full introduction to the Special Issue: Cairney, P. (2023) ‘The politics of policy analysis: theoretical insights on real world problems’, Journal of European Public Policy.


The author of this blog post is Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling, UK

Special Issue: The Regulatory Security State in Europe

Who governs European security, by what means, and on what legitimatory grounds? The conventional wisdom says that European security is still the realm of the sovereign and ‘positive state’, which monopolizes political authority and possesses the coercive capacities to provide security directly. In their special issue, Andreas Kruck and Moritz Weiss challenge this conventional wisdom and argue that, in many fields of European security policy-making, the EU and its member states should be conceived as emerging ‘regulatory security states’ (RSS). In other words, we are witnessing developments in European security that are very similar to what regulation scholars have stressed for quite some time now in the EU’s single market: namely a regulatory state that employs rules as the primary policy instrument for providing security and that draws on the epistemic authority of experts as the prevailing foundation of its authority. Even the European response to Russia’s war against Ukraine combined, to a considerable extent, rules-based governance with the reliance on experts: For example, governments turned to indirectly nudging private arms contractors into building up new production lines to sustain arms transfers to Ukraine, rather than exclusively drawing on national stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. And instead of setting up a traditional sanctions regime, economic experts pushed the EU and its member states to ban Russian banks from the SWIFT code, thereby manipulating one of the “chokepoints” of the global financial system, which is a private entity under Belgian law.

The contributions to the special issue map the emergence and presence of the RSS in Europe, covering military defense matters, such as armament policies (see the contributions by Hoeffler and Schilde) and military applications of AI (Bode & Huelss); digital security issues, such as cybersecurity (Dunn Cavelty & Smeets, Obendiek & Seidl, Sivan-Sevilla); and individual security fields, such as health security (Rimkute & Mazepus) and the protection of fundamental human rights in the Global South (Leander et al.). They show how pervasive the regulatory security state is in European security politics but also highlight important variations across issues. Beyond these mappings, the contributions explain the causes of the European RSS by analyzing the drivers of, and constraints on, the reform of security states. And they investigate the consequences of the RSS: The regulatory security state profoundly matters. But its effects are not always the desired or desirable ones. It may even have unintended and negative consequences for the effectiveness and democratic legitimacy of security policy-making – in Europe and beyond.

Together with three critical commentaries from a core state power (Genschel & Jachtenfuchs), securitization (Mügge) and risk governance (Levi-Faur) perspective, the analyses in this special issue thus advance the research programme on the regulatory state and contribute to a better understanding of security politics in Europe’s multi-level polity. Investigating the presence of the RSS in Europe and its consequential but ambivalent implications is all the more important in times when member states and the EU are struggling to muster the capacities for a strong response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Authors of the blog post are Andreas Kruck and Moritz Weiss

Jolly Good Reads II

So here comes part II with Berthold’s selection of jolly good reads from 2009-2023:

  • 2009: “An agenda setting piece for scholarship on EU rule transfer beyond the EU.” Sandra Lavenex & Frank Schimmelfennig: EU rules beyond EU borders: theorizing external governance in European politics, Journal of European Public Policy, 16:6, 791-812. 10.1080/13501760903087696
  • 2010: “One of the most insightful analyses of the EU’s democratic deficit to date.” Peter Mair & Jacques Thomassen: Political representation and government in the European Union, Journal of European Public Policy, 17:1, 20-35.10.1080/13501760903465132
  • 2011: “An essential piece to understand the evolution of the EU’s agency landscape.” Mark Thatcher: The creation of European regulatory agencies and its limits: a comparative analysis of European delegation, Journal of European Public Policy, 18:6, 790-809. 10.1080/13501763.2011.593308
  • 2012: “One of those big concepts that sticks and is useful.” Chad Damro: Market power Europe, Journal of European Public Policy, 19:5, 682-699.10.1080/13501763.2011.646779
  • 2013: “An immensely instructive assessment of the multiple streams framework to study policy change in the EU.” Robert Ackrill, Adrian Kay & Nikolaos Zahariadis: Ambiguity, multiple streams, and EU policy, Journal of European Public Policy, 20:6, 871-887. 10.1080/13501763.2013.781824
  • 2014: “The quintessential discursive institutionalist analysis of EMU reform.” Amandine Crespy & Vivien Schmidt: The clash of Titans: France, Germany and the discursive double game of EMU reform, Journal of European Public Policy, 21:8, 1085-1101. 10.1080/13501763.2014.914629
  • 2015: “Excellent work on lobbying simply won’t stop making its way to JEPP. Another exemplary piece by some of the very best in the field.” Heike Klüver, Caelesta Braun & Jan Beyers: Legislative lobbying in context: towards a conceptual framework of interest group lobbying in the European Union, JEPP, 22:4, 447-461. 10.1080/13501763.2014.994020
  • 2016: “An instant classic on Brexit; no, *the* instant classic!” Sara B. Hobolt: The Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:9, 1259-1277. 10.1080/13501763.2016.1225785
  • 2017: “An outstanding piece on the limited success to integrate environmental considerations in the EU’s agricultural policy.” Gerry Alons: Environmental policy integration in the EU’s common agricultural policy: greening or greenwashing?, Journal of European Public Policy, 24:11, 1604-1622. 10.1080/13501763.2017.1334085
  • 2018: “A piece that stands for the coming of a new era.” Liesbet Hooghe & Gary Marks: Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage, Journal of European Public Policy, 25:1, 109-135.10.1080/13501763.2017.1310279
  • 2019: “Look no further for a state of the art analysis of how identity politics shape EU integration.” Theresa Kuhn: Grand theories of European integration revisited: does identity politics shape the course of European integration?, Journal of European Public Policy, 26:8, 1213-1230. 10.1080/13501763.2019.1622588
  • 2020: “The essential account of the EU’s “other” democratic deficit. JEPP piece best known amongst Hungarian government officials, it seems.” R. Daniel Kelemen: The European Union’s authoritarian equilibrium, Journal of European Public Policy, 27:3, 481-499. 10.1080/13501763.2020.1712455
  • 2021: “A must read to grasp the socio-economic base of radical right party support.” Sarah Engler & David Weisstanner: The threat of social decline: income inequality and radical right support, Journal of European Public Policy, 28:2, 153-173. 10.1080/13501763.2020.1733636
  • 2022: “A must-read on policy responses to Covid-19 across Europe.” Dimiter Toshkov, Brendan Carroll & Kutsal Yesilkagit: Government capacity, societal trust or party preferences: what accounts for the variety of national policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe?, JEPP, 29:7, 1009-1028. 10.1080/13501763.2021.1928270
  • 2023: “If you wonder what we can learn from over a decade of EU crisis politics and research, look no further.” Maurizio Ferrera, Hanspeter Kriesi & Waltraud Schelkle: Maintaining the EU’s compound polity during the long crisis decade, Journal of European Public Policy (early view). 10.1080/13501763.2023.2165698



Jolly Good Reads I

It is time to celebrate: JEPP is turning 30 this year. And, what is the best way to celebrate an academic journal’s anniversary? Well, to highlight jolly good reads from the last three decades. We decided to pick one per year, so thirty all together.

We start with Jeremy’s selection of articles and his explanations as to why they are great

  • 1994: “An excellent example of lesson-drawing from comparative public policy research.” Giandomenico Majone: Paradoxes of privatization and deregulation, Journal of European Public Policy, 1:1, 53-69, 10.1080/13501769408406947
  • 1995: “A really perceptive analysis of the complex relationship between power and knowledge.” Claudio M. Radaelli: The role of knowledge in the policy process, Journal of European Public Policy, 2:2, 159-183. 10.1080/13501769508406981
  • 1996: “A landmark article on the nature of the EU regulatory process.” Adrienne Héritier: The accommodation of diversity in European policy‐making and its outcomes: Regulatory policy as a patchwork, Journal of European Public Policy, 3:2, 149-167. 10.1080/13501769608407026
  • 1997: “A classic ‘big picture’ article and a huge contribution to our understanding of how integration takes place.” Alec Stone Sweet&Wayne Sandholtz: European integration and supranational governance, Journal of European Public Policy, 4:3, 297-317. 10.1080/13501769780000011
  • 1998: “JEPP struck lucky in persuading Paul to contribute a revision to his pathbreaking ACF.” Paul A. Sabatier: The advocacy coalition framework: revisions and relevance for Europe, Journal of European Public Policy, 5:1, 98-130. 10.1080/13501768880000051
  • 1999: “One of those ground-breaking articles that made us all think out of the box.” Thomas Christiansen, Knud Erik Jorgensen & Antje Wiener: The social construction of Europe, Journal of European Public Policy, 6:4, 528-544. 10.1080/135017699343450
  • 2000: “JEPP subsequently published many articles on transposition and implementation. This article set the standard and has been the ‘gateway’ through which most other studies have to pass. Simply classic!” Tanja A. Börzel: Why there is no ‘southern problem’. On environmental leaders and laggards in the European Union, Journal of European Public Policy, 7:1, 141-162. 10.1080/135017600343313
  • 2001: “This article is as relevant today as it was over twenty years ago. Such clear thinking.” Kenneth W. Abbott & Duncan Snidal: International ‘standards’ and international governance, Journal of European Public Policy, 8:3, 345-370. 10.1080/13501760110056013
  • 2002: “JEPP has become the go to journal for work on EU lobbying. This article is the absolute pick of a large tranche of high-class work on the EU lobbying system.” Pieter Bouwen: Corporate lobbying in the European Union: the logic of access, Journal of European Public Policy, 9:3, 365-390. 10.1080/13501760210138796
  • 2003: An outstanding contribution to the study of European identity from an outstanding scholar.” Thomas Risse: The Euro between national and European identity, Journal of European Public Policy, 10:4, 487-505. 10.1080/1350176032000101235
  • 2004: “An article that is good to revisit at a time when evidence based policy-making is much talked about but rarely seen in the wild!” Peter Haas: When does power listen to truth? A constructivist approach to the policy process, Journal of European Public Policy, 11:4, 569-592. 10.1080/1350176042000248034
  • 2005: “A really thought-provoking article on a topic central to the study of policy change.” Christoph Knill: Cross-national policy convergence: concepts, approaches and explanatory factors, Journal of European Public Policy, 12:5, 764-774. 10.1080/13501760500161332
  • 2006: “I wish I could write articles as good as this! The comparative agendas project remains hugely influential in policy studies. JEPP was particularly lucky to get this contribution.” Frank R. Baumgartner, Christoffer Green-Pedersen & Bryan D. Jones: Comparative studies of policy agendas, Journal of European Public Policy, 13:7, 959-974. 10.1080/13501760600923805
  • 2007: “So much has been and is written about ‘governance’. If you are planning to join the throng, start with this article. A model of clear analytical thinking.” Oliver Treib, Holger Bähr & Gerda Falkner: Modes of governance: towards a conceptual clarification, Journal of European Public Policy, 14:1, 1-20. 10.1080/135017606061071406
  • “A really important and influential contribution that shows when and why organizations employ knowledge as a source of legitimation.” Christina Boswell: The political functions of expert knowledge: knowledge and legitimation in European Union immigration policy, Journal of European Public Policy, 15:4, 471-488. 10.1080/13501760801996634

Algorithms, data, and platforms: the diverse challenges of governing AI

Mark Nitzberg (right) and John Zysman (both University of California)
Mark Nitzberg (right) and John Zysman (left), both University of California

With the introduction of ChatGPT and similar tools based on artificial intelligence (AI), public debates have sparked renewed interest about the challenges and opportunities of artificial intelligence. In this article, Mark Nitzberg and John Zysman discuss how AI can and should be governed from a national and global perspective. They argue that challenges of governing AI cannot be considered in isolation but in the larger context of a ‘toolbox’ that includes algorithms, data, processing power. And even more importantly, both platform firms and the platform technology itself need to be governed because they generate big data on which AI tools can operate. To strike a balance between encouraging the potential while minimizing the risk of AI, according to Mark and John, governing this toolbox needs to focus on two complementary approaches. One needs to focus on sector-specific applications to account for variations in gains and costs depending on the purpose and domain where it is applied. The other approach should focus on overarching principles and rules that cut across many social domains and economic sectors. However, since AI is identified as a critical component for national success and a global debate on AI beyond ethical expressions is unlikely, the article concludes that rather than a mutual agreement on a set of goals and market/social rules, governing AI should have the objectives of interoperability amongst nations with sometimes fundamentally different political economies.

Drivers of parliamentary opposition in European Union politics: institutional factors or party characteristics?

Thomas Persson, Uppsala University
Thomas Persson, Uppsala University
Christer Karlsson, Uppsala University
Christer Karlsson, Uppsala University
Felix Lehmann, University of Gothenburg
Felix Lehmann, University of Gothenburg
Moa Mårtensson, Uppsala University
Moa Mårtensson, Uppsala University







How do institutional factors and party characteristics shape parliamentary opposition in EU politics, ask Thomas Persson, Christer Karlsson, Felix Lehmann & Moa Mårtensson in this recently published article. They introduce the idea that opposition can either take the form of expressing critique (e.g., influencing or shaping policy-making) or providing alternatives (e.g., providing different policies or methods), and argue that the strength of oversight mechanisms as well as Euroscepticism of a party determines which form of opposition MPs choose to use. To test this argument, Thomas, Christer, Felix and Moa analyse more than 7,500 statements of MPs Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom during plenary sessions and deliberations during European Affairs Committee meetings. The analyses demonstrate that in the absence of strong oversight mechanisms, MPs primarily make use of opposition in form of critique. Additionally, and unsurprisingly, MPs belonging to Eurosceptic parties are champions of opposition both in form of expressing critique and presenting alternatives. Most interestingly, however, the results show that in contrast to members of Eurosceptic parties who engage in oppositional behavior irrespective of institutional contexts, MPs from Europhile parties seem to regard formal oversight mechanisms partly as a substitute for expressing opposition. With these findings, the article provides a more nuanced picture about the drivers of oppositional behavior in EU politics, it prompts future research to take into account the interplay between institutional set-ups and party characteristics when analyzing parliamentary opposition.

The varying effect of court-curbing: evidence from Hungary and Poland

Aylin Aydin-Cakir, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Aylin Aydin-Cakir, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

In recent years, several governments have tried to limit judicial power with court-curbing policies. Two of the countries that have witnessed constraints of judicial power lately are Hungary and Poland. Analyzing these developments, Aylin Aydin-Cakir’s article introduces the categorization of formal and informal court-cubing and explains why different court-curbing attempts affect judicial independence differently. Aylin argues that public discontent should be higher when the government tries to weaken the judiciary through informal court-curbing (i.e., unconstitutional strategies like unilaterally removing or threatening to remove judges from office). Constraining the judiciary in this way, lacks a solid legal framework, and should more extensively decrease public confidence in the judiciary. By contrast, formal court-cubing such as restructuring the judiciary via constitutional and legal reforms, should not decrease the perceived legitimacy of the ‘new’ constitutional court at least until these legal changes go into effect. Through a high level of public confidence, the judiciary might feel powerful and judges might continue to behave assertively vis-à-vis governmental policies. Employing the innovative synthetic control method, the article demonstrates that informal court-curbing as used by the PiS in Poland has indeed a greater negative impact on judicial independence and on public confidence in the judiciary than Fidesz’s predominantly formal court-curbing in Hungary. This study, thus, presents public confidence as an important moderating factor that can mitigate the overall negative impact of court-curbing on the independence of the judiciary.

Happy Holiday Season!

Dear friends of JEPP:

We are looking back to an eventful year and thank our dear reviewers, authors and readers for producing great research, constructively commenting on manuscripts and continuously engaging with the pieces published in JEPP. Looking ahead, 2023 marks JEPP’s 30th anniversary and hopefully Jeremy will share some anecdotes about how everything started with us. We promise to have some interesting features throughout the year, celebrating some of the best contributions to JEPP throughout the past three decades.

But before we start the new year, we all will enjoy some quiet days in the sun or the snow. Scroll down to read more about our plans. Hopefully, all of you can also enjoy a well-deserved break over the holidays. We are looking forward to seeing you in the next year! Stay tuned for our upcoming issues, debate sections and special issues. Follow us on Twitter (@jepp_journal), read and subscribe to our newsletter.

Season’s greetings and all good wishes,

Your JEPP team


Over the holiday, Berthold & Jess had every intention to spend as much time in the snow as possible, provided there is any left. There is reason to be hopeful: For the first time in a very long time, visiting a Christmas market in December in my upper Bavarian village required wearing a proper coat rather than a T-Shirt. But then came another round of Covid, and hence maybe looking at the snow will be just as fine. That’s also what Semih, the mouser-in-chief, prefers anyway. He and his buddy Valter (see picture) are ready to welcome 2023. Stay safe & take care, everyone!


Sonia and I will spend our usual Christmas at Akaroa, and hope to do the same Boxing Day walk as we did last year (see photo). Boxing Day is also BBQ day, though I have been demoted to serving only drinks this year. Alas, Tess and Molly’s partners are, respectively, Australian (Billy) and Kiwi (Iain), and so trump any Englishman in this fiercely competitive Australasian sport.  Our dog, Murphy, tells me he doesn’t give a bugger who runs the BBQ. It all tastes the same to him (and he always wins the ‘fastest eater’ prize anyway!).


Michael and his family are celebrating the return of Christmas markets – Glühwein & cotton candy – and will spend a week with his mother, sister & family in Erlangen, otherwise he stays in Munich. For Michael, this will probably be a very “normal” Christmas break – compared to the previous Covid-years and compared to his new Ukrainian neighbours. After the holidays, he looks forward to many new JEPP debate and research agenda section proposals.


Sarah and Alex are excited to be hosting some of the holiday celebrations in Innsbruck this year. The only thing that stands in the way of the festivities is the question about how to fit the extended family into the apartment. Once all the guests have left after the Christmas hustle and bustle, she will devote herself to Tilda’s new passion of sledging and hopefully find some time for skiing. Thus, as Berthold, she hopes for cold temperatures and lots of snow.

Detecting anticipatory design strategies: the case of asylum policy in Italy

Marco Di Giulio, Università di Genova
Marco Di Giulio, Università di Genova
Stella Gianfreda, Independent Researcher
Stella Gianfreda, Independent Researcher







Increasing levels of polarization enhance the pressure for policy regimes to change even if they are highly institutionalized. Based on this idea, Marco Di Giulio and Stella Gianfreda investigate how anticipatory policy design affects liberal migration policy regimes in times of growing securitization. Their analysis of the Italian asylum policy shows that anticipatory strategies of both “entrenchers” and “dismantlers” are relevant to understand the dynamics of change. Even in the Italian context where dismantling forces have profoundly shaped the national policy regime, entrenchment strategies (e.g., providing incentives to foster compliance) have proved effective in stabilizing and renovating liberal institutions. Beyond these insights that policy dynamics may emerge as in-coherent and stratified policy mixes, the article calls for further micro-level analysis to complement existing macro-level studies on migration policy change in order to shed light on how agency may or may nor shape future changes of policy regimes

Voting Green in European Parliament elections: issue voting in an electoral context

JeongHun Han, Seoul National University
JeongHun Han, Seoul National University
Daniel Finke, Aarhus University
Daniel Finke, Aarhus University






To what extent can national electoral contexts explain citizens’ vote for Green parties in EP elections? JeongHun Han and Daniel Finke argue that in EP elections, voters express their sincere environmental issue preference rather than their dissatisfaction with the performance of national mainstream parties. Analyzing voter survey data from the 2019 EP election, JeongHun and Daniel demonstrate that genuine environmental preferences indeed drive support for a Green party. Interestingly, green issue voting tends to be stronger for small Green parties than for large ones and if the Green party owns the environmental issue. Additionally, the party system matters: sincere voting for Green parties is particularly relevant in contexts in which mainstream parties also pick up environmental and climate policies. Overall, this research indicates that first-order motives become increasingly decisive for understanding vote choice in EP elections while previous second-order characteristics seem to lose some of their explanatory power.