Setting Europe’s agenda: the Commission presidents and political leadership

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Series Details Vol.39, No.2, February 2017, p129-142
Publication Date February 2017
ISSN 0703-6337
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Since the presidents of the European Commission are not vested with direct decision-making power at the EU level, influencing and shaping Europe’s agenda through agenda-setting is one of the president’s primary political opportunities for exhibiting political leadership. Although scholars concluded that Jacques Delors was a ‘consistently effective policy strategist’ with a hands-on and coherent approach, his strategic agenda-setting has yet hardly been systematically analysed.

This contribution seeks to close this gap by comparing when Commission presidents announced their agendas, which were their main political topics and how these issues were developed over time. In doing so, it coherently evaluates the agenda-setting strategies of three former incumbents Walter Hallstein, Jacques Delors and José Barroso, who presided over the Commission at least for two terms. By conceptualizing and examining the political leadership of Commission presidents, this analysis contributes to the understanding of leadership as a performance of individual actors at the supranational level throughout the process of European integration.

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