Cross-national partisan effects on agenda stability

Shaun Bevan (University of Edinburgh) & Zachary Greene (University of Strathclyde)

National and international attention devoted to the German coalition talks earlier this year offers anecdotal evidence of the importance political parties and electorates place on governments’ legislative agendas. But once in office, can political parties actually exert control over legislative agendas in a fast-paced political and economic environment? In their article “Cross-national partisan effects on agenda stability” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Shaun Bevan and Zachary Greene investigate parties’ effects on agenda stability in six industrialised democracies over time. Shaun and Zachary argue that the stability of legislative agendas is subject to the state of the economy, transitions in government as well as the number of parties in a coalition government and the share of seats it controls in parliament. Their results suggest that parties tend to have strong effects on the stability of legislative agendas, yet constraints and incentives linked to the state of the economy, seat shares and number of coalition parties are particularly prevalent in the aftermath of partisan transitions in government. In light of their findings, Shaun and Zachary argue that even if voters are “unaware of parties’ detailed policy goals, using simple heuristics such as party labels and economic conditions, [their] perspective suggests that citizens can form relatively sound expectations on parties’ behaviors in office.”

Willing and able? Compliance with civil liberties in the EU

Julia Schmälter (University of Duisburg-Essen)

The EU is often regarded as a beacon of human rights. But given the strain human rights commitments imply for member states’ sovereignty, why is it that almost all EU member states faithfully comply with fundamental civil liberties? In her article “Willing and able? A two-level theory on compliance with civil liberties in the EU” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Julia Schmälter argues that member states’ willingness and capability are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for the EU’s near-universal respect for civil liberties. Julia identifies three substitutable forms of capability conducive to compliance with civil liberties, namely judicial capability, executive capability and democratic experience. Where either of these conditions is complemented by a political system of checks and balances, a strong civil society or a member state’s active participation in an international organization, full compliance with civil liberties can be expected. Results from a fuzzy-set analysis of compliance across EU member states suggest that “member states tend to comply with civil liberties when they are both able and willing to do so.”

Do parliaments underrepresent women’s policy preferences?

Sarah C. Dingler (University of Salzburg), Corinna Kroeber (University of Lüneburg) & Jessica Fortin-Rittberger (University of Salzburg)

Most parliaments across European democracies are still a few steps – and in some cases, spirited leaps – away from achieving gender-balanced representation. Existing research has shown that women tend to take a more liberal stance on mainstream political issues. Since most seats in parliament remain occupied by men, women’s preferences across a broad spectrum of policy fields may not be adequately represented in policy-making processes. In their article “Do parliaments underrepresent women’s policy preferences? Exploring gender equality in policy congruence in 21 European democracies” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Sarah C. Dingler, Corinna Kroeber and Jessica Fortin-Rittberger shed light on whether the gender gap in parliaments results in an underrepresentation of women’s policy preferences. Their results are somewhat surprising: Evidence from 21 European countries suggests that congruence of policy preferences actually tends to be highest between MPs and women. Interestingly, preference congruence is also not highest where the representation of women in parliament is most pronounced. Sarah, Corinna and Jessica show that the key to explain this puzzling finding is women’s turnout at the ballot box: “In countries where women vote at higher rates than men, elected legislatures mirror women’s policy preferences more closely.”

Referendum challenges to the EU’s policy legitimacy

Richard Rose (University of Strathclyde)

‘Referendum’ is unlikely to be a particularly popular term around the Rue de la Loi in central Brussels. While most observers of EU politics may currently associate talk of referendums with the ‘Brexit’ decision, member state electorates had challenged the trajectory of European integration long before the British vote in June 2016. In his article “Referendum challenges to the EU’s policy legitimacy – and how the EU responds” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Richard Rose documents a paradigm shift in the application of direct democracy since the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty: away from national referendums approving EU membership towards the rejection of EU policies. Still, Richard argues a thumbs-down in a national referendum may not necessarily mean the end of supranational policies. The EU has successfully employed several strategies to respond to these challenges, ranging from legal coercion to differentiated integration. Such strategies, however, do not guarantee effectiveness. Richard warns that where EU policies fail to deliver tangible benefits, attempts to circumvent popular verdicts create “a conflict between democratically expressed demands of national electorates and the absolute value of the EU’s legal legitimacy.”

JEPP@25 – Our Best-Of Collection

Throughout 2018, we ask JEPP authors and members from JEPP’s editorial board to share with us their stories as to how the research published in JEPP over the past 25 years influenced their own thinking and research about Europe, the EU, and public policy. This is what they are saying.

Jale Tosun, Heidelberg University, Germany

Kelemen, R. Daniel. Globalizing European Union Environmental Policy. Journal of European Public Policy 17(3), 2010, pp. 335-349.

Jale Tosun (Heidelberg University)

Together with the JEPP article by Robert Falkner on the “political economy of ‘normative power’ Europe” (volume 14, issue 4), this contribution by Daniel Kelemen offers a thought-provoking and compelling discussion of the rational foundations of the EU’s efforts to spread its environmental standards globally. By adopting this perspective, Kelemen challenges the scholarship that describes the EU a ‘normative’ power. Elegantly written and logically consistent, this piece demonstrates that two-level games also apply to complex and multi-levelled organizations such as the EU. On the one hand, the EU is constrained by demands for ambitious environmental policies by its member states and the European Parliament (internal dimension). On the other hand, the EU itself strives to constrain the policy choices of non-EU states by promoting international agreements that ‘export’ its most preferred policy positions internationally (external dimension). This strategic lens on the EU’s behavior helped in developing an exciting body of literature that combines public policy research with scholarship in international political economy.

Jan Beyers, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Jan Beyers (University of Antwerp)

During the past 25 years, the Journal of European Public Policy, in particular its founding editor Jeremy Richardson, played a key role in developing the research field on interest representation, lobbying and advocacy. In my role as editor of Interest Groups & Advocacy I am always struck by how influential work published in JEPP is for our field; almost every paper we review has at least one reference to an article or a special issue JEPP published. My own research on political representation, but also my work on Europeanization and regional politics, has been heavily inspired by JEPP. For instance, my Endnote database contains no less than 83 papers which I have regularly cited over the years. Hence, it is extremely difficult to point at one single paper that has influenced my work. I would like to highlight some older papers that were extremely inspirational. Interesting about these papers is that they connect the issue of interest representation to broader political science puzzles about institutional development, political legitimacy, responsiveness and accountability. So, there are many good reasons to re-read these three papers:

Grande, Edgar. The state and interest groups in the framework of multi-level decision-making: the case of the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 3(3), 1996, pp. 318-338.

Coen, David. The evolution of the large firm as a political actor in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 4(1), 1997, pp. 91-108.

Pollack, Mark A. Representing diffuse interests in EC policy-making. Journal of European Public Policy 4(4), 1997, pp. 572-590.

Christine Reh, University College London, United Kingdom

Simon Hix. The study of the European Union II: the ‘new governance’ agenda and its rival. Journal of European Public Policy 5(1), 1998, pp. 38-65.

Christine Reh (University College London)

Published two decades ago, Simon Hix’s piece postulated—possibly overstated—a “new duality” in the study of the European Union: between the new governance agenda and its, then emerging, comparative rival. The article propagates a more extensive and more systematic use of the established theories and “toolkits” of Comparative Politics to analyse and evaluate the EU’s key political and democratic challenges at the turn of the millennium; this argument is based on a methodological (calling for comparison), theoretical (calling for rationalist actor-centred analysis) and normative (calling for a focus on input legitimacy) critique of the sui generis approach. Over the next decades, both the agenda and its rival went on to become the coherent bodies of scholarship Hix called for in the piece; both produced innovative work on the EU’s government, governance and policy-choices, ranging from deliberative democracy to bargaining models; and both continue to speak to EU scholars from across the methodological and theoretical spectrum. For me, it is therefore less the start of a successful journey from comparative rival to comparative turn that makes this article one of JEPP’s seminal contributions; it is the prescient identification of the EU’s current challenges—in particular, the constraints on domestic welfare choices, the tension between non-majoritarian and competitive elements of legitimation, the need for versus risk of politicising integration—, combined with the passionate plea for a coherent research agenda to address these challenges, that offers us a powerful link between the study of the European Union in the 1990s and the study of the more troubled but also more exciting European Union of today.

Happy JEPP@25: here is to more agendas and rivals over the next quarter of a century!