There is an increasingly rich literature about the history of European integration, some of which covers the early stages of the European Council.
The European Council Studies are uniquely valuable. Launched twenty years ago and based on a wide range of published and unpublished sources, including interviews with key players, they provide a continuous, highly readable and independent narrative of the politics and policies of the European Council, the EU’s principal decision-making institution. Q&A with author Peter Ludlow.
Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what European Council Studies is about.
The European Council Studies provide a continuous analysis of every meeting of the European Council, the cornerstone of the EU’s government system. They consist of three layers:
Pre-Summit Briefings, which appear on the evening before every meeting.
Post-Summit Briefings, which appear seven days after every meeting.
European Council Notes, which provide a more considered and still more richly documented account, two to four months after the meetings they describe. The European Council is a process, as much as if not still more than a series of separate events. With a view to highlighting the continuity of the process, the Notes frequently analyse two or more meetings in one publication.
What or who inspired you to start the journal?
The European Council Studies are essays in contemporary history which have their origin in 1979 when, as a Professor of History at the European University Institute in Florence, I was asked by the President of the EUI to write a brief analysis of The Making of the European Monetary System. This subsequently became a 300 page long book, which was published in 1982. The European Council, which was still in its formative years, was a central actor throughout the book.
As Founding Director of CEPS from 1981-2001, I was able to observe the European Council at close quarters and to establish an extensive range of contacts with those involved in the process and through them to many unpublished sources about its doings. When I gave up my day to day administrative responsibilities at CEPS in the year 2000 I was therefore able to concentrate full-time on drawing on and extending these high-level contacts and unpublished sources to write what became from 2000 onwards a continuous history of the European Council. Since the beginning of 2020, the series has been published by Leuven University Press. The first 20 volumes, covering the period 2000 to 2019, will however be re-published in the near future. Last and by no means least, I intend to transfer responsibility for writing future volumes to a successor or successors who will be appointed in 2021/2022. The series will in other words outlive me.
Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, ...) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
There is an increasingly rich literature about the history of European integration, some of which covers the early stages of the European Council. Professional historians tend however to be inhibited by the 30 year rule from straying into the entirely contemporary period. This is a pity, because the documentary as well as the oral sources are already very extensive. Political scientists have of course considered the European Council, particularly within the framework of the seemingly interminable discussion about intergovernmentalism. Last, but very far from least, the Financial Times and a few other quality newspapers in other European languages, including in particular the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Ore, Le Figaro, El Pais and NRCHandelsblad are indispensable. The European Council Notes are however essays in contemporary history and not journalism.
How does the writing process go for European Council Studies? Do you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
Keeping track of the European Council and the other executive institutions which feed into it, including in particular the European Commission, the EEAS and Coreper, is a full-time occupation. The personal contacts all over the EU which it involves are nevertheless hugely rewarding and the extensive range of documents on which the work is based are always fascinating, often amusing and sometimes profoundly irritating and even disturbing.
What would you like readers to remember about European Council Studies?
I hope that readers will come to regard the series as an indispensable reference work, which will be worth reading and re-reading.
Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about?
The next publication will be the next number in the series!