Understanding EU Decision-Making: Principles, Procedures, Practice (+ an introductory module)

02/10/2018 - 05/10/2018
Location: Maastricht (NL)
Project number: 1812202

Understanding EU Decision-Making: Principles, Procedures, Practice (+ an introductory module)

From:  1.370,00

This course will get you up to speed on the essential elements of how the EU system works. The introductory module introduces the basics: the legal bases for what the EU can and cannot do, the main ways in which decisions are taken, the different powers that Member States have given to the EU, the roles and structures of the EU institutions.

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“I’m going to that meeting in Brussels next week. Is it an expert group or a comitology committee?”
“I need to brief the boss about what to expect. Will the Commission ask her to vote?”
“How can I know where our issue is in the EU decision process, and what comes next?”

Simple questions, the answers to which may be complex, and yet can make your job easier. This course will get you up to speed on the essential elements of how the EU system works: the different powers that the EU has, who does what, and how you can have a role in shaping EU decisions. It is concise but thorough, and focusses in detail on EU law-making.

What you will learn in this course:

  • The differences between legislative acts, implementing acts (the world of ‘comitology’), the new delegated acts, and their place in both the EU policy cycle and the hierarchy of laws.
  • The decision-making procedures within the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament, and the ways in which national officials and other stakeholders fit into the policy process.
  • The ordinary legislative procedure and how a ‘trilogue’ works.
  • Delegated and implementing acts using topical cases (including the well-known ‘glyphosate’ saga).

By the end of the course, you will:

  • Understand the essential principles and procedures that you need to know to be credible when operating in an EU context
  • Be able to decode messages and reports from Brussels
  • Be more effective in your own interactions with other officials
  • Be better equipped to explain how things work to your colleagues and associates
  • Have a solid basis for continuous learning on the job afterwards

Who is this course for:

  • Officials who have taken on a new role in Brussels
  • Officials who have to attend meetings in the Commission or Council
  • Anyone who needs to know how EU decision-making works in practice

Course methodology and highlights
We believe learning happens best with practical knowledge. So this course includes:

  • Extensive insights with multiple examples and real life cases
  • Group exercises
  • Role plays and simulation games
  • Inputs from an experienced EU practitioner as the basis for discussion among participants about the practical demands of participation in the various stages of EU decision-making.

After-course support
In order to help retain and deepen the knowledge acquired afterwards, you will receive a copy of Edward Best’s 2016 book Understanding EU Decision-Making, published with the support of the EU Publications Office.

Course structure:
The course duration is 2.5 days, in order to leave time for ample exercises and discussions. You will receive a set of concise preparatory materials in advance, to ensure that you have a basic knowledge of EU processes and thus be able to take full advantage of the detailed sessions and practical exercises in the course.

The additional introductory module (0.5 day, held before the commencement of the detailed course)
We would want you to get maximum benefits out of this course, irrespective of your level of knowledge on EU decision-making.

So in this course, we have included an additional introductory module to be held on the afternoon before the commencement of the detailed course, covering the following topics:

  • The legal bases for what the EU can and cannot do
  • The main ways in which decisions are taken
  • The different powers that Member States have given to the EU
  • The roles and structures of the EU institutions

While this module is optional, if you are not sure you are familiar with the basics, we recommend that you attend it, to be able to make the most of the intensive course and immerse yourself in the detailed exercises over the next 2.5 days.

If you are confident of all the basics, and do not feel that you need any further training on it, you can register only for the 2.5 day course.




EU decision-making for newcomers (introductory module)




The European Union in 2018: basic structures and competences




Coffee break




Introduction to the EU institutions and decision-making procedures




Questions and answers




End of the preliminary module






Welcome and self-presentation of the participants
Edward Best, Head of Unit, European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), Maastricht




Introduction and overview of EU decision-making
The day begins with a succinct summary of the main points covered in the preliminary reading / preliminary module concerning the structures and competences of the EU.

 Group exercise: Who does what in the EU institutional system?
In order to engage you actively, we present a simple model of the core EU policy cycle, indicating the main roles and functions that are involved. You will divide into groups and match schematic outlines with sets of institutional actors and instruments. This is followed by a debriefing that establishes the framework for the following sessions.




Coffee break




The Commission and legislative proposals
You then look in more detail at the start of the policy cycle. We explain how the Commission elaborates legislative proposals and outlines the role of expert groups, public consultations and impact assessments.




Lunch at EIPA’s restaurant




Decision-making case study on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (1)
A case study is introduced that will run through the whole course, illustrating each stage of the policy cycle. You first engage in a short exercise concerning the process of agenda-setting and problem definition.

15.15  Coffee break


Legislative procedures in the Council and the European Parliament
You will look at the internal structure and working methods of the Council, identifying the main actors and decision-making processes involved.  This is followed by a presentation ofprocedures within the European Parliament, showing how legislative proposals are examined in the Committees and the Plenary.




Recapitulation of main points covered during the day




End of the first day













The Ordinary Legislative Procedure
We start the day by giving an overview of the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, by which the European Parliament and the Council have to agree on most legislative proposals.
Edward Bestand Sabina Lange, Senior Lecturer, EIPA


Decision-making case study (2)
You now take part in a second short exercise in which you identify the main actors and steps involved in legislative decision-making in the case.
The actual process by which the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive was adopted is then presented.




Coffee break




Simulation exercise
A different case is now used to simulate a meeting in the Council framework at which you need to reach a compromise text as a basis for negotiation with the European Parliament.
Edward Best
Radovan Schida
, Political Administrator, General Secretariat of the Council, Brussels

Introduction to the case (the EU Firearms Directive) and individual background preparation.


First round of discussions.



Lunch at EIPA’s restaurant




Second round of discussions




Coffee break









General discussion
We now summarize how the act was finalized in the real interinstitutional negotiations and open a general discussion on legislative procedures.
Radovan Schida, Edward Best and Sabina Lange




Recapitulation of main points covered during the day




End of second day and little reception at Hotel Derlon









Delegated and implementing acts
This session goes into more detail regarding the new system of ‘delegated acts’ ‘and ’implementing acts’. We explain the procedures for adopting these acts with specific examples, outline the institutional issues that have arisen, and show how these issues have been addressed in a new Common Understanding between the institutions.
Edward Bestand Sabina Lange


Decision-making case study (3)
We round off the case study by looking at how delegated and implementing acts have been adopted on the basis of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive.

The session concludes with the case of Glyphosate, which illustrates some procedural questions concerning implementing acts as well as broader trends in EU policy-making.




Coffee break




Practical perspectives: preparing for EU decision-making
The final session is introduced by experienced EU practitioners who discuss how national officials and other stakeholders can prepare to participate effectively in EU policy processes.


Anita Drondina, Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Latvia to the EU; EIPA visiting expert, Brussels
Philippe Portalier, Director Internal Market and Standardisation, ORGALIME – The European Technology Industries, Brussels




Wrap-up and evaluation




End of the seminar


Course venue
European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA)
O.L. Vrouweplein 22
6211 HE, Maastricht
the Netherlands

Programme Organiser
Ms Eveline Hermens
Tel: + 31 43 3296259

The fee includes documentation and refreshments. Lunches, a reception or dinner are included if mentioned in the programme. Accommodation and travel costs are at the expense of the participants or their administration.

EIPA offers a 10% discount to all civil servants working for one of EIPA’s supporting countries, and civil servants working for an EU institution, body or agency.

Who are the supporting countries?
Civil servants coming from the following EIPA supporting countries are entitled to get the reduced fee: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

For all other participants, the regular fee applies.

Lunches and the reception will be served at a restaurant in town. Special dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian, diabetic) can be indicated once you receive the confirmation of the seminar.

Hotel reservations
EIPA has special price arrangements with a number of hotels. All hotels are within 10 minutes walking distance from EIPA. Should you wish to make use of this possibility, please book directly via the links below. Payment is to be made directly and personally to the hotel upon checking out. At the time of booking, please mention in the requested field the EIPA project number for your course.

Confirmation of registration will be forwarded to participants on receipt of the completed online registration form.

Prior payment is a condition for participation. 

Cancellation policy
For administrative reasons you will be charged €150 for cancellations received within 15 days before the activity begins. There is no charge for qualified substitute participants.

EIPA reserves the right to cancel the activity up to 2 weeks before the starting date. In that case, registration fees received will be fully reimbursed. EIPA accepts no responsibility for any costs incurred (travel, accommodation, etc.). 


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