Taking Advantage of Institutional Possibilities and Network Opportunities : Analyzing Swedish Strategic Action in EU Negotiations

Sammanfattning: When core national interests are at stake, EU member states optimize their strategic activities on the European level in order to advance national preferences. Two cases are used in this study to shed light on such dynamics. The first case is Sweden’s strategic action within the transparency issue area, which in part defined the country’s Council Presidency in early 2001. The second case is the EU chemicals policy where Sweden, as in the transparency case, harbours strong interests. The two studies provide opportunities for in-depth studies of the complex institutional setting and related EU negotiations within the co-decision context. Armed with a theoretical framework based on what is labelled institutional possibilities and network opportunities, the author proceeds to analyze Swedish strategic activities in the studied cases. These activities are categorized as framing; the use of expertise; manipulation; procedural tactics; leadership; mediation and coalition-building. The framework developed to analyze Sweden’s strategies is additionally used to trace and analyze the activities of other member states (i.e., France, Italy, the UK and Finland), EU bodies, and non-governmental actors. This multi-actor approach significantly broadens the empirical and theoretical scope of analysis and understanding. The theoretical contribution consists of a synthesis of rational institutionalism and network theory – informed by the sizable literature about negotiations in international relations. The author concludes that within co-decision procedures, the European Parliament has become an important ally – or opponent – for member states advancing national interests. The role and influence of the Council Presidency is identified as a uniquely powerful when promoting national interests through the European system. The study also demonstrates that strategies vary greatly across stages of decision-making, and that tactical approaches are configured differently depending on the context.