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By Sebastiaan Princen (auth.)

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Example text

Actors have to argue not only that certain substantive aspects of an issue are more important than others, but also that European action is needed to address them. In short, they have to construct a story about 40 Agenda-Setting in the European Union why the issue is European in scope. The arguments used in doing so need not be directly related to the reasons why actors push an issue, but in any case actors need to be able to justify their claims in terms of the ‘Europeanness’ of the issue. In principle, debates about the appropriate level also may arise in domestic debates, in particular in federal states, but the authority and remit of the EU are much more contested than those of the national government in a well-established federal state.

Venues are more receptive to some issues than others because the way in which these venues are set up and operate tends to favour certain participants and viewpoints. Suppose, for example, that environmental groups want to convince decision-makers to ban an industrial substance that they say is dangerous. In this case, environmental agencies or ministries are more likely to be receptive to their arguments than agencies or ministries that are entrusted with economic development. First, environmental agencies have an institutional task to look after environmental quality, hence they will be interested in issues that are potentially relevant to that task.

First, they tend to present international collective action problems as pre-given or pre-defined, thereby ignoring the contested nature of what constitutes an ‘international collective action problem’ and the political process that leads to the identification of these problems. Second, they may explain why issues are ‘on’ or ‘off’ the international agenda, but they have more difficulties accounting for the rise and fall of issues on that agenda – in particular when the changes in agenda status are not linked directly to the ‘objective’ severity of problems.

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