Understanding EU Decision-Making: Principles, Procedures, Practice

Project number: 20122021

EIPA Headquarters, Maastricht (NL)

Date & pricing

25/11/2020 - 27/11/2020
Register before: 09/11/2020

€ 1.300,00 per attendee

€ 1.170,00 for EIPA members*

Understanding EU Decision-Making: Principles, Procedures, Practice

From:  1.170,00

Get up to speed on the essential elements of how the EU system works. This course does not include the introductory module, for those who are familiar with the basics.

This course is going online shortly. Check this page regularly to get more detailed information.

About this course

“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.

You will also receive insights as to what to expect from the new European Parliament and European Commission.

Who is this course for:

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

Course methodology

  • Extensive insights with multiple examples and real life cases
  • Group exercises
  • Role plays and simulation games
  • Inputs from experienced EU practitioners.

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.

Don’t have much exposure to EU decision-making, or want to refresh your knowledge?

You can also participate in the optional preliminary module the afternoon before the course date, covering the basics. If you are not sure you are familiar with the basics, and as you have to be in town by this date anyway, we recommend that you attend this module, to be able to make the most of the intensive course and immerse yourself in the detailed exercises over the following days.

In the basic module, you will be introduced to:

  • 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

If you feel you need to participate in this module, you can register for the Course plus preliminary module.

What you will learn in this course

  • The differences between legislative acts, implementing acts and delegated acts, relating them to their place in the EU policy cycle, as well as in the hierarchy of laws.
  • Decision-making procedures in 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.

By the end of the course, you will:

  • Understand the essential principles and procedures that you need to know in order to be credible when operating in an EU context
  • Be better equipped to explain how things work to your colleagues and associates
  • Have a feel for how things work in practice, and be able to prepare appropriately
  • Have a solid basis for continuous learning on the job afterwards.
Edward Best

Edward Best

EU Governance

Practical information

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

Programme Organiser
Ms Belinda Vetter
Tel: + 31 43 3296382

The fee includes documentation and refreshments, two lunches and a dinner. 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, the reception or dinner 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.

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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The programme

09.00 Welcome and self-presentation of the participants
Edward Best, Head of Unit, European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), Maastricht
09.15 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. A debriefing establishes the framework for the following sessions.
10.45 Coffee break
11.00 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.
12.45 Lunch at EIPA’s restaurant
14.00 Case study (1)
A case study on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive is introduced. This case run through the whole course, illustrating each stage of the policy cycle.You first engage in a short exercise concerning the processes of evaluation and impact assessment.
15.15 Coffee break
15.30 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.We then present procedures within the European Parliament, showing how legislative proposals are examined in the Committees and the Plenary.
17.15 Recapitulation of main points covered during the day
17.30 End of the first day
19.00 Dinner
09.00 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.
Decision-making case study (2)
You now take part in a short exercise in which you identify the main actors and steps involved in legislative decision-making in the case.We then present the actual process by which the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive was adopted.
11.00 Coffee break
11.15 Simulation exercise
We now use a different case 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 of the EUIntroduction to the case (the EU Firearms Directive) and individual background preparation.First round of discussions
13.00 Lunch at EIPA’s restaurant
14.00 Second round of discussions
15.15 Coffee break
15.30 Debriefing
16.15 General discussion
We now summarise how the act was finalised in the real inter-institutional negotiations and open a general discussion on legislative procedures.
17.00 Recapitulation of main points covered during the day
17.30 End of second day
09.00 Delegated and implementing acts
This session goes into more detail regarding ‘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 the institutions have addressed these issues in a new Common Understanding.
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.
10.45 Coffee break
11.00 Practical perspectives: preparing for EU decision-making

The final session discusses how national officials and other stakeholders can try to shape the process at the different stages, whether in meetings or by other means.

Iskander De Bruycker, Assistant Professor, Maastricht University
Mieke De Regt, Member of the Contact Network, Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC); former Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU

12.45 Wrap-up and evaluation
13.00 End of the seminar