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The politics of guarding the Treaties: Commission scrutiny of rule of law compliance

Carlos Closa (Institute for Public Goods and Policies)

Recent reforms implemented by right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary have threatened to unravel the separation of powers in their respective polities, conflicting with the principles of the rule of law enshrined in Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty, however, equips EU institutions with a mechanism to respond to such threats. The European Commission’s decision to trigger Article 7 proceedings in response to the rule of law crisis in Poland, but not in Hungary, has raised more than a few eyebrows among both policy-makers and academics. In his article “The politics of guarding the Treaties: Commission scrutiny of rule of law compliance” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Carlos Closa argues the European Commission’s decision to initiate Article 7 proceedings is driven by strategic considerations. Carlos argues that absent cooperation from domestic authorities in the offending member state, the Commission anticipates the likelihood of lacking sufficient support among EU members to employ Article 7 sanctions, which would threaten to signal tacit acquiescence to offending authorities. Drawing on data from Commission documents and a series of interviews with key decision-makers, his findings indicate the limits to the Commission’s enforcement capacities, translating into the latter’s “preference for compliance through instruments that can actively engage offending governments rather than those which could lead to severe sanctions.”

One wave of reforms, many outputs: the diffusion of European asylum policies beyond Europe

Nina Guérin (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich)

Since its inception in 2004, asylum and migration policy reform in the EU’s neighbouring countries has been a key domain of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Amid a flurry of reform efforts across most ENP countries, some of the EU’s neighbours chose to align their asylum and migration policies with EU rules, whereas others fell short of the targets set out in the ENP. In her article “One wave of reforms, many outputs: the diffusion of European asylum policies beyond Europe” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Nina Guérin draws on the concept of policy diffusion to explain variation in the outcomes of asylum and migration policy reform across the EU’s neighbourhood. Employing a qualitative comparative analysis, she shows that two separate pathways can account for the observed variation in EU neighbours’ policy reform outcomes. Nina’s analysis reveals that “ENP states align with European asylum policies in two cases: first, if they are electoral democracies and face moderate migratory pressures; second, if they are electoral democracies and hold EU membership aspirations.”

The inter-parliamentary alliance: how national parliaments empowered the European Parliament

Pierre Haroche (King’s College London)

A dominant view among EU scholars holds that European integration had advanced at the expense of national parliaments’ authority, with domestic legislatures only starting to claw back their say over EU policy-making since the Maastrich. Pierre Haroche challenges these notions, arguing that national parliaments had a hand in shaping the path of European integration and competences of EU institutions long before the treaty reforms of the 1990s. In his article “The inter-parliamentary alliance: how national parliaments empowered the European Parliament” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Pierre shows that national parliaments made their approval of transferring legislative competences to the supranational level conditional on the empowerment of the European parliament. Connected through national political parties, most (albeit not all) national parliaments perceived the empowerment of the European parliament as an adequate compensation for giving up their competences at home. Analysing the first transfer of budgetary powers to the European parliament in 1970 and the first transfer of legislative powers via the Single European Act in 1986, Pierre shows that at these critical junctures of European integration, empowerment of the European parliament was fostered by an inter-parliamentary alliance between the European parliament and its national counterparts. He concludes that far from being victims of European integration, national parliaments “successfully used their national powers to impose the parliamentarization of the EU regime.”