Following, Challenging, or Shaping: Can Third Countries Influence EU Energy Policy?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Following, Challenging, or Shaping: Can Third Countries Influence EU Energy Policy?


  • Benjamin Hofmann Institute of Political Science, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
  • Torbjørg Jevnaker Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway / Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Philipp Thaler Institute of Political Science, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland


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Abstract:  Can non-EU member states influence the EU’s energy policy? The Europeanization of energy policy in third countries is often described as a one-directional process in which these countries essentially adopt the EU energy acquis. Our article questions this dominant view by exploring whether and how third countries can influence the formulation and implementation of EU energy policy. We argue that relative differences in third country influence depend on their access to relevant venues and actors of EU policy-making as well as their structural power resources. We develop a typology linking these two factors to the outsider, follower, challenger, or shaper roles that third countries assume in EU energy governance. We empirically probe our argument in three case studies representing different models of EU–third country cooperation. Our cases include a group of nine Southeast and East European countries (Energy Community), Switzerland (bilateral arrangements), and Norway (European Economic Area). The analysis shows that it is access and structural power which together define the extent to which third countries are able to influence the formulation of EU energy policy and customize its implementation to their domestic needs. We find that while the Energy Community members are followers in EU energy governance, Switzerland and Norway are shapers. Strikingly, the influence of these two non-EU members may occasionally even surpass that of smaller EU member states. This highlights that third countries are not merely downloading EU energy regulation but sometimes also succeed in uploading their own preferences. Our contribution has implications for the post-Brexit EU–UK energy relations and qualifies claims about EU regulatory hegemony in the wider region.

Keywords:  Brexit; Energy Community; energy policy; European Economic Area; European Union; Europeanization; influence; Norway; Switzerland; third country

Published:   28 March 2019


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v7i1.1853


© Benjamin Hofmann, Torbjørg Jevnaker, Philipp Thaler. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.