From Summitry to EU Government: An Agenda Formation Perspective on the European Council


While some observers have claimed that the European Council has become the key institution in European Union politics, others have argued that the Council’s role has remained relatively stable over time. In this article, we argue that an analysis of agenda formation dynamics in the European Council may help us understand better how the European Council works and how its role has evolved over time. Building on theories of agenda-setting, we identify two ideal-typical modes of agenda formation: selective targeting and routine monitoring. Based on a comprehensive dataset of coded European Council Conclusions in the period 1975–2011, we show that the substantive content of the European Council agenda shows little change over time. However, in terms of agenda formation dynamics, we find a marked shift toward routine monitoring of issues. This supports the claim that the European Council is developing into the EU’s de facto government.

JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, (54), 4, pp. 809–825,
Marcello Carammia
Marcello Carammia
Senior Researcher in Political Science

My research focuses on the comparative analysis of institutions and public policies, with special interest in the interaction between migration dynamics, politics, and policy.