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Six decades of energy policy in the EU

Teacher Sophie Biesenbender, Hans De Keulenaer


This course focuses on the evolvement of energy policy and agendas in European institutions over the last six decades and the recent development of a comprehensive EU energy policy. The first part of the course identifies the broad lines in the development of energy policy in the European Community since its formation. It starts out with a description of how energy policy making as well as its institutional framework have evolved over time.  It presents the descriptive results of a do­cument analysis on the emergence and development of energy policy agendas in two European institutions (i.e. the Commission and the Council). In this context, particular emphasis is on tra­cing agenda-shaping activities for policies on the generation and provision of energy. Based on this evidence, the course will illustrate how political attention for different sources of energy generation has changed over time and how it is linked to changing institutional and legal conditions.

The second part of the course summarises the results of an analysis on the patterns of agenda shaping with regard to the development of a comprehensive EU energy policy. This issue has been on the political agenda of the EU since the mid-2000s. The analysis addresses issues of energy mixes, energy security and energy infrastructure. The aim of the qualitative analysis is to assess the impact of situational factors (e.g. problem perception and framing) and institutional determinants (e.g. perceived authority) on the inter-institutional and internal energy policy agendas of different European institutions. The findings suggest that the idea to develop a comprehensive European energy policy has increasingly been on the political agendas of different EU institutions over a long period. The Commission and the Council have worked on general principles and overarching issues of energy policy since the 1970s. This has laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of a comprehensive energy policy, which started with the 2005 spring European Council.

The evidence presented in the course allows for different conclusions. First, it illustrates how the agendas of different institutions) relate to one another (e.g. through the transfer of attention and priorities). Second, changes in EU energy policy seem to be a consequence of technological de­velopments, different priorities and changing policy problems. Third, the analyses show how dif­ferent institutions tend to rely on specific framing strategies for perceived problems or policy issues. While the Commission considers the internal energy market as the main instrument to rea­lise the stated targets of a comprehensive EU energy policy, agenda-shaping activities by members of the European Parliament repeatedly focus on the environmental and climate-change implications of energy policy. Fourth and finally, with energy policy becoming a priority matter for EU policy ma­king (with the Treaty of Maastricht 1992 and more explicitly with the Treaty of Lisbon 2007), the foundations were laid for policy actors in the EU to move energy policy to the EU’s inter-institutional policy agenda. In this context, institutional factors have also shaped the framing opportunities for policy entrepreneurs (including the ability to link different issues).

Duration (hours)