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Keywords:

  • independent regulators;
  • EU policy making;
  • framing;
  • venue-shopping;
  • herbal medicines

Abstract

This article addresses debates on the formulation of public policy, building upon a body of literature which has focused on the interconnectedness between the venues of policy action and the way issues are defined. It does so by focusing on the strategic role of policy actors in a policy subfield and their attempts at manipulating either frames or venues in order to shape policy. The novelty here consists in pointing to the involvement of regulators in such strategic action. An emerging body of research has indeed shown that the activity of formally independent regulators is not necessarily limited to the implementation of delegated regulatory competencies and that they are increasingly engaged in policy-making activities. Thus, by resorting to the agenda-setting and framing literature, the article sheds light on novel pathways through which regulators intervene in policy-making activities, making a claim that they have very good ‘tools’ at their disposal in order to shape policy. These dynamics are examined in the case of the last piece of the EU's pharmaceutical framework – the 2004 Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicines – which provoked intense debate among manufacturers of herbals, retailers, consumers, and both EU-level and domestic-level regulatory authorities.