Report by UACES Scholar 2018, Ingmar Versolmann (University of Edinburgh).
My UACES Scholarship funding was used for a three-week field trip to Brussels in April 2018, to conduct interviews. My research project analyses the driving factors of European energy policy towards a European Energy Union and a deeper level of integration in general. Utilising a Historical Institutionalist approach, the research project analyses path dependent processes regarding energy policy, from the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community to the project of the European Energy Union. It investigates under what premises legislative proposals for the Energy Union were made, identifying critical junctures that deploy possibilities for institutional change, and determining which key players were pivotal in formulating policy proposals.
The research project looks at the way initial steps have led to subsequent integration and how the rationale underpinning the ultimate goal to form a common Energy Union have shaped developments in this policy area.
To that end, I utilise different types of data for my research, and both qualitative and quantitative methods are applied. The research trip to Brussels was of immense value as it helped me to expand my methodological approach and gather qualitative data that was missing from my document analysis of primary and secondary sources. It allowed me to investigate important aspects of the decision-making process in Brussels that depend on expert knowledge and insight from policy makers – not only because of their technical expertise, but also due to their holistic knowledge of the different factors influencing this process.
The obtained data will contribute to a much thicker policy description, which in turn will ultimately contribute to a fine-grained analysis of the content. Many of the interviews I conducted provided insight on the policy area that would otherwise have not been accessible through an analysis of documents and quantitative data.
Over the three-week period, I managed to conduct 15 interviews, between 1 and 1 ½ hours each. Amongst my interview partners were high ranking officials from the Directorate General of Energy, representatives of different COREPER divisions of Member States, Members of the European Parliament (ITRE committee), and a think tank.
I also conducted a telephone interview with a representative from the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. I was astonished by the openness and the willingness of high ranking officials and civil servants to partake in my research. I had expected it to be more difficult to win them for an interview, due to the sensitivity of certain information.
However, I have to conclude that the research trip was an utterly pleasant and invaluable experience that will ultimately help me to finish my PhD thesis. In addition, during my time in Brussels I attended a UACES CRN Workshop on energy policy in Maastricht, where I had the opportunity to chair a panel. Therefore, I am immensely grateful to UACES for providing the means to conduct this field trip to Brussels, an endeavour that would otherwise have been impossible to accomplish.
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Ingmar Versolmann is a PhD researcher in Politics & International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. His research analyses the driving factors towards deeper integration in European energy policy and the European Energy Union. His research interests include Historical Institutionalism, theories of integration, EU external relations, energy markets and energy security. He was visiting researcher at the Webster University Vienna, Austria. Contact: iversolm[at]exseed.ed.ac.uk