Is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) a ‘game-changer’ and threat to democracy?

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Ferdi De Ville (Ghent University) & Gabriel Siles-Brügge (University of Warwick)

After a period of relative obscurity, EU trade policy has experienced a surge of interest, driven in large part by the negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Presented by its advocates as a boon to growth and jobs and a means of cementing transatlantic leadership of the global economy, and by its detractors as a threat to democracy itself, it has sparked a furious and very polarized debate amongst commentators and in the public sphere. This motivates the authors in this third JEPP debate section (after debates on Brexit and EU democracy) to focus on whether TTIP truly represents a ‘game-changer’ of a trade agreement and to what extent it undermines democratic decision-making. It begins with a contribution by Ferdi De Ville and Gabriel Siles-Brügge, who argue that TTIP is not only novel but that it also represents a subtle threat to democratic decision-making. Drawing on a constructivist theoretical tradition, they illustrate how the agreement is set up to entrench certain regulatory practices and discourses that see public interest regulation as a barrier to free markets. Dirk De Bièvre and Arlo Poletti, in contrast, draw on existing interest-based political economy explanations to argue that much of TTIP is ‘good old trade politics’. They also take issue with the argument that the agreement represents a threat to democracy, arguing that the prospective agreement respects the regulatory autonomy of the EU (and the US), since a supermajority is required to adopt any change to the EU regulatory status quo. Moreover, the agreement would be likely to lead to regulatory upgrading worldwide. Leif Johan Eliasson and Patricia García-Duran round off the debate by arguing that TTIP represents a geopolitical game-changer because it is the first time that a bilateral agreement (rather than the WTO) may provide the global public good of common standards for an economically interdependent world. They also suggest that the fears of opponents of TTIP are largely driven by their misplaced concern that the agreement will allow the US to impose lower standards on the EU.

Regulating online gambling in the EU

Des Laffey (Kent Business School) & Kathryn Laffey (Educational consultant)
Des Laffey (Kent Business School) & Kathryn Laffey (Educational consultant)

Throughout the past few years, online gambling has transitioned from a market beset with legal obscurity to an important source of revenue for EU member states. Online gambling, however, is bound to cause public regulators headaches since its economic benefits are not easily captured by the jurisdiction where activities take place. Instead, providers of gambling sites will often choose to set up shop where taxes are lowest. Analysing how the UK and Italy responded to the challenges of regulating the online gaming market, Des Laffey, Vincent Della Salla and Kathryn Laffey argue that different models of economic governance in EU member states are poor predictors of the regulatory instruments they chose. In their article “Patriot games: the regulation of online gambling in the European Union” published in the Journal of European Public Policy they argue that the UK and Italy chose to promote the interests of gambling operators, prioritising a steady flow of revenues over consumer and public health concerns.

Auditing from scratch?

Paul Stephenson (Maastricht University)
Paul Stephenson (Maastricht University)

Since its establishment in 1977, the European Court of Auditors has received its fair share of attention in the scholarly literature on EU institutions. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the control of expenditures of the European Communities prior to 1977. Paul Stephenson takes us on a historical journey, analysing how the Audit Board – beginning as a part-time agent of the Council – institutionalized the audit of the European communities from scratch. Read his article “Starting from scratch? Analysing early institutionalization processes: the case of audit governance” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how the Audit Board struggled “to assert itself as a new player in the burgeoning institutional architecture of the Communities” and how we can best study such early institutionalization processes.

The drivers of trade union influence

Marc Hooghe (University of Leuven) & Jennifer Oser (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Marc Hooghe (University of Leuven) & Jennifer Oser (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Amid a widely shared perception that trade unions have lost their clout in shaping governments’ social policies, recent scholarship suggests that this development has been particularly prevalent in liberal market economies. In their article “Trade union density and social expenditure: a longitudinal analysis of policy feedback effects in OECD countries, 1980–2010” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Marc Hooghe and Jennifer Oser find that trade unions boasting union density can press governments for higher social expenditures, however only in coordinated market economies. Their analysis also tells us that a government’s social expenditure influences trade unions’ density, suggesting that “the mobilization success of trade unions is partly dependent on the opportunities created by contextual political institutions”.

What can the EU do to protect democracy in Hungary and Poland?

demonstracja_komitetu_obrony_demokracji_04Accession to the EU is conditional upon the Copenhagen criteria, including respect for democracy and rule of law – but once a country has become EU member state, what can actually be done against national democratic backsliding? In Hungary, Viktor Orbán is implementing his vision of an “illiberal democracy” and the Polish “Law and Justice” (PiS) government is imitating Orbán’s reforms, e.g. by undermining the independence of the judiciary. JEPP’s second debate section (for the first debate on Brexit, see here; another debate on TTIP is forthcoming) draws on different strands of political science research to discuss the political feasibility and the (un)intended consequences of EU safeguards against member states’ democratic backsliding. Michael Blauberger and R. Daniel Kelemen adopt a compliance perspective and focus on judicial instruments. They argue that existing judicial instruments could be deployed more aggressively to resist democratic backsliding, but many innovative proposals run the risk of unduly politicizing European and national courts. Ulrich Sedelmeier explores the potential of political safeguards, drawing on insights from research on EU party politics, on the domestic impact of international institutions, and on EU accession conditionality. He concludes that the application of material sanctions is very unlikely for party-political reasons and the added value of facilitating their use is questionable, but social pressure can be effective under favorable conditions. Bernd Schlipphak and Oliver Treib approach the topic from a public opinion perspective and discuss the risk that EU intervention may produce unintended nationalist backlashes. They identify conditions under which such a rally-around-the-flag effect can be avoided, i.e. if EU safeguards build on domestic allies, clearly target governments rather than countries, and are based on an independent assessment of potential infringements against EU fundamental values.

Explaining the Brexit vote

Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)
Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)

While the British political elites are puzzling over a political strategy for Brexit, we are still left wondering about what drove 51.9 percent of British voters to end the UK’s membership in the EU. Professor Sara Hobolt from the London School of Economics has answers for us. Drawing on the rich data of the 7th British Election Study conducted prior to the referendum, she explores various hypotheses explaining British voters’ attitudes towards Brexit. In her article “The Brexit Vote: A Divided Nation, a Divided Continent” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, she finds a strong propensity of those who felt left behind by the forces of globalization – the less educated and less well-off – to vote Leave, while the winners of globalization – the younger and highly educated professionals – had a strong tendency to vote Remain. Notwithstanding evidence that the UK has been by far the most Eurosceptic member state for the past few years, there is more to worry about for supporters of the EU project. The divide between losers and winners of globalization reflects the same sentiments behind the recent surge in support for populist Eurosceptic parties across Europe. The future of the Union appears to depend more than ever on public support for the European integration project. Sara argues that the challenge facing the EU at present is to address the concerns of a growing share of voters across Europe, who see the EU “as part of the problem rather than the solution when it comes to protecting ordinary citizens from the challenges of an ever more globalized and integrated world”.

The European Parliament oversight of EU agencies through written questions

Nuria Font (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) & Ixchel Pérez Durán (Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals)
Nuria Font (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) & Ixchel Pérez Durán (Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals)

The European Parliament has recently joined the European Commission in monitoring the activities of the European Union’s sprawling army of regulatory agencies. While we may welcome that elected representatives increasingly assume the role of agency watchdogs, we know little about the factors that drive parliamentarians’ use of their oversight powers. Drawing on original data from the European Parliament’s past term, Nuria Font and Ixchel Pérez Durán find that MEPs from national opposition parties are more likely to ask questions about regulatory agencies than their colleagues from governing parties. Read their article “The European Parliament oversight of EU agencies through written questions” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how some members of the European Parliament use their oversight powers to make up for their information disadvantages.

Who is in control? The shifting balance of power between the Commission and the Council in EU bilateral trade negotiations

Markus Gastinger (Dresden University of Technology)
Markus Gastinger (Dresden University of Technology)

While the European Commission conducts the EU’s bilateral trade negotiations, its room for manoeuvre is circumscribed by the Council. Analysing a series of EU-India trade agreements, Markus Gastinger argues that until the early 1990s the Commission had been able to acquire an information advantage vis-à-vis the Council during informal pre-negotiation phases, which enabled the Commission to move the substance of the ensuing official negotiations closer to its own preferences. Read his article “The tables have turned on the European Commission: the changing nature of the pre-negotiation phase in EU bilateral trade agreements” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how EU member states have subsequently dried up the Commission’s access to exclusive information by shifting the institutional arenas for pre-negotiations. Have a look at Markus’s homepage and see what else his research has in store here.

An inflection point in European Union studies?

Alasdair Young (Georgia Tech & Chair of the European Union Studies Association)
Alasdair Young (Georgia Tech & Chair of the European Union Studies Association)

Alasdair Young, professor of International Affairs at Georgia Tech and Chair of the European Union Studies Association (EUSA), introduces a selection of the best papers from the EUSA 2015 Biennial Conference published in the Journal of European Public Policy (JEPP). You can find Alasdair’s recently published contribution to JEPP introducing the selection of papers and reflecting on the state of EU studies here.

 

By Alasdair Young

The European Union Studies Association (EUSA) is delighted to announce the publication of a collection of some of best papers from its 2015 biennial conference in Boston in the Journal of European Public Policy (JEPP). The contributions went through a rigorous selection process.  They had to be nominated by the discussant of the panel on which they were presented.  Each nominated paper that was not already published or committed elsewhere was then reviewed by two members of EUSA’s current and out-going Executive Committee. The authors of the papers on the resulting short-list were provided with feedback and given a few months to revise their papers before they were submitted to JEPP’s standard, double-blind review process. Given this bottom-up selection process, the articles in this special issue do not even aspire to coherence.  Their (inadvertent) similarities as well as their differences, however, provide a fruitful springboard for reflection on the state of European Union studies, which seems particularly appropriate in the spring of 2016 as the EU confronts multi-dimensional challenges – the lingering Eurozone crisis, the referendum on British membership, the migrant/refugee crisis, and a wave of terrorist attacks. (more…)

JEPP and EUSA collaboration on the road to Miami 2017

EUSA_JEPPJEPP and the European Union Studies Association (EUSA) continue their collaboration to publish the best conference papers of the biennial EUSA conferences in a special issue, guest edited by EUSA. As the third special issue of this exciting collaboration is now available through the JEPP website (read the intro here and Alasdair Young’s blog post here), EUSA has issued the call for papers for the next biennial conference to be held in Miami from May 4-6, 2017. Abraham Newman will act as the guest editor of Miami-issue. If you want to be in it, make sure you are on the programme!