University of Sussex
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EU energy policy: agenda dynamics and policy change

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:36 authored by Raphael Sauter
This thesis analyses EU energy policy from a comparative agenda-setting perspective providing new theoretical and empirical insights into EU energy policy-making. Although two of the founding treaties of the European Communities covered the coal and nuclear sectors, the European Union has struggled ever since to establish itself in the field of energy policy. In particular, it failed to include an explicit Community competence on energy in Community primary law in subsequent treaty revisions – with the exception of the new Title XX on Energy introduced with the Lisbon Treaty. Nonetheless the European Union has established itself as an important player in European energy policy, as reflected in EU directives on energy market liberalisation, energy efficiency standards and targets for renewable energy sources. At the same time, policymakers at various levels, business, NGOs and experts agree that more EU energy policy is needed to face current and future transnational policy challenges, notably, climate change and energy security. This has led to numerous studies with policy recommendations on EU level action in the field of energy policy. By contrast, very few studies have analysed the drivers and barriers of EU energy policy-making and factors that can explain policy change and stability. Yet a better understanding of EU energy policy-making is a necessary precondition for the development of appropriate policy recommendations. This thesis provides an analysis of EU energy policy-making by identifying factors that can explain change and stability from an agenda-setting perspective. Drawing upon EU studies and agenda-setting literature the analysis distinguishes between two different agenda-setting routes, high and low politics, along the key stages of an issue career: initiation, specification, expansion and entrance. It accounts for the following key variables in EU agenda-setting: contextual factors, policy entrepreneurs, issue definition, and institutional venues. These are applied to two contrasting case studies of EU energy policy: nuclear energy and renewable energy. The study shows how and why Community initiatives failed in an institutionally ‘strong’ EU energy policy arena under Euratom, but succeeded in the field of renewable energy under the EC Treaty.


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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

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