There are two competing perceptions of the EU Council and its working groups. The first of them argues that the Council works as a battleground for expressing the interests of Member States and other participating actors. A competing view emphasizes the effects of socialization and informal norm shaping behaviour of the actors involved. It thus considers the Council as a forum where consensus prevails. This article analyses how different actors acting in the Council working groups communicate in a formal way. Based upon analysis of non-participatory observation of interventions, it finds that working groups tend to be arenas for real bargaining where the actors enforce their interests. It also finds that even the Council Presidency focuses on interests’ promotion and that socialization – which can be found at the COREPER level – does not take place in the working groups.
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