Where Is Power Really Situated in the EU? Complex Multi-Stakeholder Negotiations and the Climate and Energy 2030 Targets

FNI Report 3/2016. Lysaker, FNI, 2016, 162 p.

The literature on EU integration gives no clear answer as to where real decision-making power in the EU is situated. Which stakeholders are the most influential when major decisions are made, for example? An approach held to have considerable explanatory potential for EU policies in general, and potentially for climate and energy policy in particular, is the advocacy coalition framework (ACF). However, few studies have applied ACF together with other theories/frameworks, such as liberal intergovernmentalism (LI) and historical institutionalism (HI), to assess the degree to which various stakeholders involved at the EU level manage to achieve their preferences. Using the EU’s new 2030 headline climate and energy policy targets as a case of EU climate and energy policy, this study asks: how can we explain the outcome of negotiations in the EU, as exemplified in the 2030 negotiations? Drawing on more than 30 research interviews with representatives of key stakeholders conducted before and after the final political negotiations, combined with extensive document studies and participation in stakeholder events, this report argues that the result appears to be a genuine compromise for all stakeholders involved. Findings confirm the Commission’s importance as an agenda setter (HI) and the crucial role and positions of heavyweight member states like Germany, France, the UK and Poland (LI), which were probably affected by their key energy industries and long-term energy policies. The study also finds large long-term advocacy coalitions within the interest group community (ACF). Moreover, the final decision may be viewed as negotiated compromise between advocacy coalitions at various levels (ACF), but only when the ACF criterion of nontrivial degree of coordination is not very rigorously operationalized.