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Transparent Agenda-Setting in the EU? From Legal Rules to Administrative Practices

Bettina Leufgen
University of Utrecht
Bettina Leufgen
University of Utrecht
Open Panel

Abstract

Policies are essentially politics. Policies that are made at the EU level influence the lives of citizens, as the agendas and decisions being made shape society at large, define rules, laws and regulation, determine taxes, salaries, the environment, health care, safety and security, as well as education, alimentation and so forth. In order for interest groups or civil society groups at large to influence and shape agenda setting in the EU, information has to be disclosed, made available, and made accessible at an early stage to ensure that the issues important to them actually make it onto the agenda: issues not on the agenda are less likely to become policy. Therefore transparency can be said to be a necessary precondition for the successful shaping of agendas. The focus of this paper is to determine the level of transparency in the agenda setting and problem definition phase of EU policy-making. It encompasses an investigation of the role of the European Commission and of external stakeholders (such as interest groups) in shaping agenda-setting in the EU. A systematic analysis of both formal, legal, statutory rules (de jure) as well as of administrative practices (de facto) guiding the policy-making process will shed light on how transparent the agenda-setting process in the EU actually is. This will be analyzed through a case study within the field of environmental policy. Embedded into a wider context, this will provide more general insights into the transparency regime of EU policy-making and, more specifically, into agenda-setting. This has the added value of evaluating whether the rhetorical pledge of the Commission to increase transparency in EU policy-making is mirrored in legal rules and in administrative practices.