Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Preparatory Bodies as Mediators of Political Conflict in Trilogues: The European Parliament’s Shadows Meetings

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Abstract:  Trilogues have become ‘normal’ structures in European Union (EU) decision-making but their functioning, based on secluded decision-making, makes it difficult to understand how institutional positions are formed and managed and which actors are better positioned to influence policy outputs. These are, however, important questions because, first, a coherent position in trilogues (one that withstands the scrutiny of the Council) enhances the European Parliament’s (EP) chances of achieving a favourable outcome following negotiation; second, because it has become more complicated to find a common position within the EP due to increased levels of politicisation and polarisation (especially in the form of Euroscepticism) in EU policy-making. Therefore, this article focuses on preparatory bodies preceding trilogues and the role they play in building Parliament’s positions. With the shift of political conflict from plenary to committees and now to shadows meetings, the latter have become de facto decision-making bodies. Not only do they serve to mediate intra-institutional conflict but also to anticipate Council and Commission positions. This article compares the use of shadows meetings in politicised and non-politicised issues. With the use of ethnographic data provided by participant observation and elite interviews, we aim to provide explanations on how these new instruments serve to informally manage politicisation, focusing in particular on the advantages of insularity in highly publicised negotiations.

Keywords:  committees; Common European Asylum System; European Parliament; European Union political parties; politicisation; shadows meetings; trilogues



© Ariadna Ripoll Servent, Lara Panning. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.