Who would have thought a knack of learning new names would be among the portfolio of essential skills ministers must bring to the table when fulfilling their duties at the Council of the European Union? With ministers serving at the mercy of their heads of governments, recent research suggests that ministerial turnover in the Council by far outweighs turnover rates in national legislatures. In their article “Vertical intra-institutional effects of ministerial turnover in the Council of the European Union” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Lauren K. Perez and John A. Scherpereel investigate how ministerial reshuffles affect the influence national bureaucrats in working groups and permanent representatives in senior committees can exercise in the Council. Their evidence suggests that ministerial turnover is indeed “an important and significant predictor of whether decisions are made at the ministerial or committee level.” Beyond providing an interesting insight into vertical intra-institutional dynamics in the Council, Lauren and John’s contribution has important implications for the debate on the EU’s democratic deficit: If high ministerial turnover shifts influence on decision-making in the Council over to bureaucrats who are not subject to the same public scrutiny as the ministers they are serving, democratic accountability only becomes more difficult.
Considering their limited administrative capacity, EU regulatory agencies entrusted with fostering co-ordination of regulatory practices across the EU are presented with an overwhelming task – a task that appears manageable only with the support and goodwill of national regulators. Against this backdrop, Eva Heims writes that “it remains a critical puzzle for students of public administration and EU governance to understand why some national regulators are willing to engage with the work of EU bodies and to co-ordinate their practices with sister authorities, whilst others are not.” In her article “Regulatory co-ordination in the EU: a cross-sector comparison” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, she compares attitudes among British and German maritime safety and food control authorities towards EU regulatory co-ordination. Her analysis reveals that while British and German maritime safety authorities are apprehensive of closer ties with the International Maritime Organization, fearing inroads into their traditional turfs, food safety authorities in both countries embrace EU regulatory co-ordination to stay atop of complex systems of domestic local authorities. Eva’s contribution shows that “it it is useful to take into account the positions which national authorities hold in constellations of bureaucratic actors beyond the EU context in order to understand their attitudes to EU co-ordination.”
The club of Western democracies legally recognizing same-sex unions, either through a registered partnership or marriage, has consistently expanded its ranks since 1989, when Denmark first introduced registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Questions surrounding the factors that drive the timing of the introduction of same-sex union laws have since sparked a lively academic debate. In their article “Sooner or later: the influence of public opinion and religiosity on the enactment of laws recognizing same-sex unions” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Achim Hildebrandt, Eva-Maria Trüdinger and Sebastian Jäckle add to this debate by zooming in on the effects of three cultural factors – attitudes to homosexuality, intolerance of gays and lesbians and religiosity. Their analysis suggest culture plays a key role in the timing of legalising same-sex union, indicating that “the less tolerant people are of gays and lesbians and the greater a country’s percentage of regular attendees of religious services, the later a same-sex union law is introduced.” Yet, their findings also highlight the importance of digging a little deeper and recognizing different facets of culture, as “toleration of gays and lesbians in everyday life and religious service attendance have a greater influence on policy dynamics than more abstract beliefs such as moral approval of homosexuality or religious faith.”