An intensive two-day exchange of research ideas took place in Rotterdam on 1st and 2nd December 2011. The occasion was the 8th Work Conference of the Netherlands Institute of Government (NIG). The annual event welcomed many scholars from the Netherlands and Flanders working within the fields of political science and public administration.
One of the conference panels that attracted much attention was organised by MI-researchers Petya Alexandrova and Lucie Spanihelova, and MI-fellow Markus Haverland. Scholars and PhD candidates from 8 universities participated in the panel, called Analysing Multilevel Policy-Making in the European Union. The well-organised section consisted of sessions dedicated to different stages and aspects of the EU policy-making cycle, including agenda-setting, the EU-member state relationship and the Union’s external dimension. The participants discussed a variety of topics and presented intriguing research findings.
One of the papers by Petya Alexandrova and MI-research director Arco Timmermans addressed the role of the Presidency in European Council agenda-setting. The paper shows limited actual impact of the domestic agenda of member states holding the EU Presidency over the European Council agenda. A number of constraints condition this limited impact, among which inherited agenda points, unexpected focus events and norms of neutrality and consensus-building are found to be the most prominent.
Another paper by MI-fellow Anne Rasmussen and Brendan Carroll from Leiden University analysed the relationship between public opinion and interest group activities. The study discovers that interest groups indeed act as a transmission belt of the public to the policy-makers. They mobilise more actively on issues that the public considers salient and have direct consequences for budgetary spending.
A contribution by Jana Deforche and Peter Bursens from the Antwerp Centre for Institutions and Multilevel Politics and the University of Antwerp examined strategies of regional authorities in EU treaty reform. The research project evaluates whether Flanders, Catalonia, Baden-Württemberg and Scotland chose to act directly or indirectly and individually or in cooperation in order to advocate their preferences for EU institutional reform. It studies comparatively the conditions for selecting one path versus another and suggests that the domestic constitutional setting and the EU-level experience of a region provide the most powerful explanation for the strategy design.
The panel provided an opportunity for the researchers to receive feedback from peers and engage in challenging discussions. The participants were thankful for the excellent organisation and interactions continued also after the sessions.