The newest volume of the online journal Perspectives on Europe presents a special edition dedicated to the Comparative Agendas Project (CAP). Under the title ‘Comparing Policy Agendas in Europe and North America’ a broad range of topics related to agenda setting attract the reader’s attention.
The articles deal with issue prioritisation in regional governments, jurisdictional and budgetary constraints on policy making, the role opposition parties in agenda formation, the link between media and politics, the understanding and treatment of morality issues, as well as with general aspects of political attention dynamics in multi-level systems. This variety of themes reflects the evolution of the CAP project, which has been growing in the last 10 years towards a wider community of scholars and a broader range of research questions pertaining to agenda setting. It also reflects the increasing amount of high-quality datasets on policy agendas in various institutional and geographical contexts in Europe and North America, which have been developed based on a common approach towards indicators of attention.
The special issue is edited by MI Research Director Arco Timmermans and Frank Baumgartner from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The two scholars point out that the CAP work, a snapshot of which is presented in the journal, is not only of scientific relevance but also ‘allows us to draw lessons about how priorities are set within governments and other policy making institutions, and how responsive these institutions are’.
Part of the policy agendas research conducted at the MI is presented in an article on the European Council, co-authored by Marcello Carammia, Arco Timmermans, Sebastiaan Princen, and Petya Alexandrova. The first studies on the agenda of this institution have revealed the logic behind key realities of issue prioritisation, information processing, and power plays in the EU. For example, the European Council tends to address more often a basic set of issues consisting of the matters that are also featured on the agendas of the top executives in nation states. Yet, the freedom of choice with respect to issue selection and the power to juggle with topics make the European Council’s agenda more volatile compared to similar top institutions in countries. Another finding dismisses the myth that the rotating Presidency has been the crucial player in determining the European Council’s agenda (at least until a permanent President was introduced in December 2009). The authors note a range of new avenues for research which the EU policy agendas framework has paved. More information about the project is available at: www.policyagendas.eu.
The journal Perspectives on Europe is the official interdisciplinary platform of the Council for European Studies, which aims to spread research findings to the general public in an understandable language.