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Constructing a Policy-Making State?Policy Dynamics in the EU$
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Jeremy Richardson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199604104

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604104.001.0001

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Inching Towards a Common Energy Policy:

Inching Towards a Common Energy Policy:

Entrepreneurship, Incrementalism, and Windows of Opportunity*

(p.147) 8 Inching Towards a Common Energy Policy:
Constructing a Policy-Making State?

Burkard Eberlein

Oxford University Press

Within two decades EU energy policy has risen from one of the Community’s major failures to a major area of EU policy activity, overcoming significant obstacles to Europeanization endemic to the energy sector. At least in terms of discourse and policy activities - if not always in practice - the EU today has a comprehensive energy policy, underpinned by a constitutional foundation in the Lisbon Treaty and equipped with some hard instruments to liberalize Union energy trade, regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and promote renewable sources of energy. External drivers such neo-liberal economic policies, Eastern enlargement and the political salience of climate change did create necessary – but not sufficient conditions for EU policy expansion. This chapter argues that Commission entrepreneurship has a key role in explaining policy change. The Commission has skillfully exploited dramatic changes in the energy (and broader economic) landscape that opened windows of opportunity for EU policy expansion. Informed by a strategic-constructivist perspective, the chapter identifies three complementary avenues or strategies of policy change: ‘relentless incrementalism’ in politically astute, small but path-dependent steps; informal modes of governance and transnational institution-building to circumvent obstacles to a formal transfer of powers to the EU; and the shadow – and bite – of hierarchy (competition law and policy) to break reform stalemates and accelerate sector changes. However, Europeanization in terms of policy outcomes and performance has been much less of a success story. An important reason, in addition to the usual suspects such as red lines of member state sovereignty, has been the divergent market and political dynamic of the three goals or sub-areas of energy policy: energy security; economic efficiency (competition) and market integration; and environmental sustainability including climate change.

Keywords:   energy policy, entrepreneurship, European Commission, institutionalization, policy streams, strategic constructivism

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