By Sebastiaan Princen (auth.)

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1 Issue formation as external to the political process As previously mentioned, international relations scholars have traditionally tended to see the formation of issues as external to the political process. This can be illustrated by looking at two approaches which have long dominated the international relations literature: neo-realism and international regime theory. 24 Agenda-Setting in the European Union Neo-realist thinking begins from the assumption that the international system is decentralized and anarchic: that is, there is no central authority which can formulate and enforce binding rules, so states can rely only on their own activities.

You guessed it: energy. The way to solve the country’s energy problem, so reasoned the advocates of mass transit, was to get people out of their cars when commuting. (Kingdon 2003 [1984]: 173) Thus, proponents of greater investments in mass transport tried to ‘sell’ their programmes as solutions to traffic congestion, environmental pollution and energy dependence respectively, depending on the problem that prevailed in political debates at the time. By linking mass transport to issues that were ‘popular’ at the time, they tried to gain support from actors that cared about those other issues and thereby tilt the balance of support for new initiatives in mass transport.

2000; Tallberg 2002). Still, the EU has neither its own police force nor, in most policy areas, its own inspection capacity, so member state governments remain crucial for actors seeking to have policies effectively enforced. In other areas, the EU can issue only nonbinding guidelines and recommendations, or simply provide a framework for debate and the exchange of ideas. Although the availability and non-availability of certain instruments has a great impact on the EU’s attractiveness for political actors, this should not be taken to imply that binding decisions are always more attractive than non-binding decisions, as this also depends on the objectives of the political actor.

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