Policy shaping and decision making are two stages of the EU policy process. However, the line between both is difficult to draw. At the same time, the demarcation between the stage of agenda setting and policy shaping can be difficult to determine.

We can define policy shaping as the formulation of a policy. The work of people who are involved in this stage of the process is “preparation" or "pre-baking" of the decisions. This means that policy shaping consists of the preparation and blending of the draft policy before the stage of negotiation and agreements.

Policy shaping involves two different groups of civil servant: national civil servants and European officials.

  • At the European Commission, the key person is the chef of dossier. The chef of dossier is a fonctionnaire who is responsible for leading a proposal in the policy shaping stage.
  • At the Council of the EU, this role belongs to the Council working groups and afterwards to the COREPER.
  • At the European Parliament, the key people are the rapporteurs from each of the EP’s political groups.
  • In the case of Member States, usually there are three groups of actors: coordinating authorities, government department, and national parliament.

When we talk about theoretical perspectives, the theories of policy networks and socialization are particularly relevant. Another useful tool is the principal-agent theory. A clear examples is the creation of COREPER. Member states delegated the authority for informal preparation of negotiations to COREPER. After that, they found themselves no longer able to control the outcomes of the process.

In conclusion, policy shaping stage consists in the development of ideas and proposals initiatives. National and EU civil servants have a lot of impact, but there are many different group of actors contributing in this phase in the policy process.

To improve your knowledge about policy shaping we suggest:

Greenwood J. (2007) Interest Representation in the European Union, 2nd edn (Basingtoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Nugent, N. (2010) The Government and Politics of the European Union, 7th edn (Basingtoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan).