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.
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.
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.
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”.