The Victory of the Intergovernmental Method? The Emergence of the European Council in the EEC’s Institutional Set-up, 1974-1977

The European Council represents one of the most significant institutional developments in the history of the European Communities since the Treaties of Rome. The negotiations over its creation were a good illustration of the debate between the backers of the intergovernmental method, and the defenders of the Community method. As a consequence, the European Council in particular, and the debate between intergovernmental and Community methods in general, is often presented in black an white terms, as the “saviour” or the “villain” of European integration.

This chapter shows that the creation of the European Council in 1974 should not be thought of in such black and white terms. Although its inception gave birth to lively debates and that it influenced the mode of decision making in the EEC, it found its place relatively smoothly in the Community decision-making process. In order to show this, this chapter first analyses why was this institution supported in spite of a mixed track record after its first three years of operation. Second, it examines how both the nature and the functions ofthe European Council were progressively clarified. Finally, it seeks to show how the Community institutional set-up adapted itself to this new institution, and to what extent it changed the structure of the decisional process.



Published in Daniela Preda and Daniele Pasquinucci (eds), The Road Europe Travelled Along. The Evolution of the EEC/EU Institutions and Policies, (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2010), pp.27-40.