Black Boxes and Open Secrets: Trilogues as Politicized Diplomacy

Christilla Roederer-Rynning, Justin Greenwood

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How can we explain the puzzling contrast between formal rules of open EU lawmaking and the practice of secluded trilogues? This question, arising against growing public controversy, points to a blind spot in the scholarly agenda on trilogues, which has overwhelmingly focused on their internal games. Drawing on the interpretivist tradition, we argue that rules are shaped by tradition and the dilemmas arising from conflicting beliefs and lived experiences. On this basis and drawing on extensive interview material, we argue that: 1) the vagaries of EU lawmaking can best be understood through the concept of ‘politicized diplomacy’; 2) a new tradition arose in support of seclusion, around the core belief of protecting the ‘space to think’; and 3) institutionalized contradictions, together with ideological tensions and ambiguous lessons from the lived experience of EU lawmakers have turned trilogues into a permeable institution, while prompting renewed public demands for transparency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)485-509
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • ordinary legislative procedure
  • trilogues
  • seclusion
  • interpretive research
  • politiczed diplomacy
  • politicised diplomacy

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