Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Politics of the European Union

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT European Studies

DESCRIPTION Study-Unit Aims:

- This study-unit aims to provide students with a firm grounding in the political dynamics of the European political system. By understanding the political dynamics which underscore all EU institutions and actors, students should gain a greater appreciation of the challenges every actor faces in defending their interests in the EU.
- Through the study-unit students should be able to better explain and criticise key areas of EU politics.
- In the latter part of the study-unit students should also gain a better understanding of how to apply concepts of European politics to the reality of the political system.
- Class participation is encouraged with the aim to foster a greater confidence in students to formulate and present their opinions and be able to engage in constructive debate with their fellow class members.

Study-unit Overview:

The principal aim of this study-unit is to analyse the EU political system as an area of governance which brings together various political actors. The central aim will be to explain the types of actors involved, the venues within which they interact as well as the political dynamics which underscore that interaction. In analysing the interaction of these actors, the study-unit will focus on three elements of EU politics, namely the running of the Union, the policy-making cycle as well as the system for upholding the policies of the Union, primarily through judicial politics. The study-unit will conclude by analysing what the Union does, namely its policy spectrum and how this has developed over time.

Study-unit Structure:

The study-unit can be differentiated into three sections, the first outlining the principal political actors active in Brussels and the political dynamics which underscore the EU institutions before continuing with the second section which will look at how these actors interact in the running of the Union as well as policy-making and adjudication. In the last section we will analyse what the Union does, namely its policy spectrum.

The study-unit will be divided into the following lectures:

- Understanding the EU Political System as an Experiment in Governance: conceptualising the EU as a political system has not been easy but this lecture will discuss the growing trend to view the EU as a system of governance, thus instilling flexibility into a system which is noted for its shifting power centres and functions.

- The Actors at the Heart of the EU: a brief overview of the EU institutions, the institutional triangle and the principal dynamics which link the institutions together. This will serve as a prelude to the first part of the study-unit.

- The Council as the Domain for National Interests: this lecture will be divided into two sections, the first looking at the difficulty of actually speaking about national interests and how national interests are translated into EU objectives within the Council before looking at the Council itself as a venue for bargaining and compromise.

- ‘Europe’s Interests’ and the Suitability of the Commission to fulfil this Role: central to European integration, the Commission is a political animal underscored with its own internal dynamics which often pits bureaucrats against politicians. This lecture will look at the internal dynamics of this institution before looking at its often fraught relations with other institutions.

- The European Parliament as the Hot Bed of National Politics: as with the Council, two elements must be studied in terms of the EP, namely the convoluted relationship between political parties (both national and European) as well as the internal dynamics within the EP which often compromise decision-making.

- Peripheral Players and the Role of Courts: several key structures exist outside the core EU institutions but their prominence depends on the issue being analysed. This lecture will analyse the minor consultative bodies and agencies as well as the more prominent courts.

- Interest Groups as European Players: the final part of the first section will analyse the role of interest groups at a European level and the difficulty of achieving their agenda. Reference will also be made to the lack of a European media as a major limitation in EU politics. The first part of this study-unit will conclude with an overview of what we have studied and how the various actors are represented in Brussels as well as highlighting the problems which remain in linking the concern of citizens with the decisions made in the EU.

- EU Politics and the Running of the Union: executive leadership is provided by various institutions within the EU, primarily the Commission and the Member States. This lecture will analyse how these actors interact to run the Union as well as the limitations of each in meeting their own agenda.

- EU Politics and Policy-Making: policy formation brings together all the principal EU actors but can often involve a degree of compromise which leaves all participants unsatisfied with the final compromise. This lecture will analyse what principal dynamics underscore policy formation and the legislative process.

- EU Politics and Policing its Policies: judicial politics are increasingly gaining prominence as an area where EU policy is determined by Courts and their acolytes. This lecture will look at the role of the Courts and the Commission in policing the Union.

- EU Policy: This topic will analyse what the Union does, how that policy is differentiated and how the EU's involvement in sectors has changed over time.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Nugent, Neill (2017). The Government and Politics of the EU. 8th edition, Palgrave, UK.
- Bache, Ian and George, Stephen (2011), Politics in the European Union. 3rd edition, Oxford, UK.
- Cini, Michelle (2016), European Union Politics.5th edition, Oxford, UK.
- Hix, Simon and Hoyland, Bjorn (2011) (), The Political System of the European Union. 3rd edition, Palgrave, UK.
- Lelieveldt, H. and Princen, S. (2011). The Politics of the European Union. Cambridge University Press, UK.
- Wallace, Helen; Wallace, William and Pollack, Mark (2014), Policy-Making in the European Union. 7th edition, Oxford, UK.

There is no single core text for this study-unit.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Students are required to register for Level 1 Units if they are in Year 1, for Level 2 Units if they are in Year 2, and for Level 3 Units if they are in Year 3 or 4 of their course.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Mark Harwood

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.