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European Council and crisis management

Written by Suzana Elena Anghel, Ralf Drachenberg and Stanislas de Finance

The European Council and Crisis Management

Over the last number of years Europe has been facing an increasing number of crises of a very different nature, ranging from the sovereign debt crisis to foreign policy crises – (Ukraine and Libya for example) – and the on-going migration crisis. The European Council has been at the centre of crisis management. Yet what are the strengths and weaknesses of the European Council’s approaches and working methods in times of crisis? What challenges does it face? Is there a uniform approach to the management of all these very different crises?

The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) will address these questions at a roundtable discussion on “The European Council and crisis management” on 16 February 2016, 18h00-20h00, in the European Parliament’s Library main reading room in Brussels. Participants at this roundtable debate are: Prof. Danuta Hübner, Chair of Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, Prof. Desmond Dinan, Didier Seeuws, former chief of staff of first European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and Mr. Peter Ludlow.

Multiplication of crises and individual responses with some similarities

The EPRS also carried out an in-depth analysis examining the role played by the European Council and its President in managing crises. The publication looks at the similarities and differences in the measures agreed upon by EU Heads of State or Government when engaging in crises management.

The increasing number of extraordinary European Councils and Euro Summits meetings, shown in the analysis, illustrates and exemplifies both the significant multiplication of crises which the EU has had to deal with in recent years, and the European Council’s growing role in crisis management, especially compared to the pre-Lisbon Treaty period. These exceptional meetings reveal the urgent need for policy responses from the European Council to deal with unexpected crises.

The paper also identifies a substantial degree of interconnectedness between the sovereign debt, migration and foreign policy-related crises. At the same time the analysis also shows no common approach has developed at European Council level for managing crises. As each crisis has different causes, management is based on a different response and is made up of specific, often unique, circumstances, each is dealt with differently.

Whilst acknowledging the differences when comparing the various crises one can still identify similar challenges the European Council faces as it goes through certain phases in responding to a crisis. These include: Failure to anticipate the crisis; Lack of existing European tools to address the crisis; Search for a common European approach; Shift from short-term to long-term strategy and the use of alternative approaches.

The findings also show that the European Parliament often anticipates crises using the tools at its disposal – resolutions, plenary debates – to make its views on the European Council’s management of these crises highly visible.

Full in-depth Analysis on the ‘European Council and Crises Management

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About ECOS

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)monitors and analyses the delivery of the European Council in respect of the commitments made in the conclusions of its meetings, as well as its various responsibilities either in law or on the basis of intergovernmental agreements.

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