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The Governance of EU Energy Policy: Transition to Climate Neutrality in the New Intergovernmentalism Era?

European Union
Governance
Integration
Climate Change
Energy
Energy Policy
Mihnea Catuti
University of York
Mihnea Catuti
University of York

Abstract

The Clean Energy for All Europeans Package introduced a new governance framework for EU energy and climate policy. This marks a shift from top-down technocratic planning and accountability between the Commission and member states, to a new relation based on cooperation and negotiation through integrated National Energy and Climate Plans. This not only changes the internal governance of EU energy and climate policy, but it can also contribute to solidifying the EU’s climate leadership by providing a working example of an international cooperation mechanism that can be expanded beyond EU borders. This external dimension is particularly relevant given the current switch of focus from the Energy Union to the European Green Deal, which aims to turn Europe into the first climate neutral continent. In order to understand these changes, this paper analyses the negotiation process and contents of the Governance of the Energy Union Regulation and the Recast Renewable Energy Directive. Primary data was collected in the form of 35 semi-structured face-to-face elite interviews conducted both during and after the negotiations phase of the package. This paper shows that new intergovernmentalism (Bickerton et al., 2016) can explain these dynamics. This European integration theory highlights the deliberation and consensus-based practices of day-to-day EU policymaking, in an environment increasingly hostile towards furthering European integration by transfer of powers to the supranational level. Simultaneously, this theoretical framework can explain how the contested legitimacy of the EU and the constant state of disequilibrium and crisis are reflected in the domestic preference formation of member states for European integration. Nonetheless, new intergovernmentalism proves incapable of fully explaining the passage of the governance framework, as it cannot effectively account for the role of supranational institutions. Therefore, the theoretical framework is complemented by the literature on the Commission’s ‘purposeful opportunism’ (Camisao&Guimaraes, 2017) and policy entrepreneurship (Kingdon, 2003).