The euro crisis and an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers and migrants highlight a shift in the dimensionality of political conflict across EU member states. While the recent crises have not manifested themselves in dramatic programmatic adaptations of extant parties, we can witness a rise and strengthening of new parties, especially on the far-right end of the political spectrum. In their article “Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks argue that recent European crises can be conceived of as critical junctures, revealing pressures that have built over the past two decades. As traditional cleavages along class, territory and religion gradually forfeit their shaping power on political conflict, Liesbet and Gary identify a new, transnational cleavage, “which has as its core a political reaction against European integration and immigration.” Their analysis shows that as extant parties appear to labour in vein to come to terms with a new social division, change in national political party systems “has come not because mainstream parties have shifted in response to voter preferences, but because voters have turned to parties with distinctive profiles on the new cleavage.”
As unemployment soared in the wake of the euro crisis, some observers feared that the economic hardship experienced across many societies and dissatisfaction with their governments’ responses to the crisis may prove too much for the resilience of some European democracies. Would the effects of the euro crisis undermine Europeans’ confidence in the principles of democracy? Would it pave the way for a resurgence of authoritarian-styled politics, particularly in places where the crisis hit hardest? In his article “The implications of the euro crisis for democracy” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Hanspeter Kriesi draws on data from the sixth round of the European Social Survey and takes stock of Europeans’ evaluations of democracy. Hanspeter’s analysis uncovers that in the aftermath of the crisis dissatisfaction with both domestic and European politics escalated in Southern Europe, whereas Northern Europeans remained relatively content with their national politics. Somewhat counterintuitively, we should not expect those losing confidence in their governments’ capacity to effectively deal with the crisis to show democracy the cold shoulder. In fact, Hanspeter’s analysis suggests that dissatisfaction with governments’ performance strengthened citizens’ belief in democratic principles. Instead of undermining European democracies, “[b]y creating ‘critical citizens’, the economic crisis contributes to the strengthening of democratic principles.”
Recent years have been marked by anything but smooth sailing for the EU and its member states, with the fallout from the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the union yet to fully emerge and credible challenges arising from the euro and Schengen crises that have rocked the foundations of European integration. With regard to the latter two, the products of these crises could not be any more different, as the euro crises has ushered in new supranational institutions and strengthened existing ones, whereas the Schengen crisis laid bare the EU and member states’ inaptitude to update – or at the very minimum save – their common migration and asylum policies. In their article “From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse unpick this puzzle and demonstrate that existing theories of European integration can only partially explain variation in European responses to these crises. Contending that debates surrounding the two crises have been framed in fundamentally different terms, solidarity within the European community in the context of the euro crisis contrasted by an ‘Us against them’ notion on migration and asylum policies, Tanja and Thomas also zero in on the role of politicization. Here, they highlight the importance of the crises’ sequence, with efforts to depoliticize the euro crisis coming back to haunt the EU when dealing with an unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees, suggesting that “[d]epoliticization through supranational delegation has ultimately led to more, not less politicization”.
Fiscal austerity and structural reform in response to the euro crisis hit Southern European societies hard, while dwindling confidence in the euro had strained economic activity throughout the eurozone for years. With several European economies still grappling with the euro crisis’s effects and yet to fully recover from 2009’s shock, it is a crucial task for scholarship to take stock of the lessons learned from the crisis and to initiate debate on the way forward. In his article “Varieties of capitalism in light of the euro crisis” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Peter A. Hall discusses how the literature on varieties of capitalism contributed to the understanding of the euro crisis, and in turn how the crisis itself has advanced our understanding of varieties of capitalism, including the literature’s limits. Peter argues that attempts to make sense of the euro crisis have led to efforts to complement the varieties of capitalism literature’s emphasis on the supply side of the economy with growth models focusing on the demand side. While such efforts have contributed to our understanding of the root causes of the crisis and help explain variation in responses to it, he warns that our vision on how to secure growth in Southern Europe remains clouded. With EU officials seeking ways to reinvigorate growth across Southern member states, Peter highlights that pursuing a single set of best practices seems ill-advised, as Europe’s history teaches that “there is more than one route to economic prosperity, and finding a successful national path requires adapting social and economic policies to the institutional conditions specific to each type of political economy”.
By Carsten Daugbjerg and Peter H. Feindt
This new special issue of the Journal of European Public Policy introduces a new concept to the discussion about the ongoing transformation of policies in the modern welfare state: post-exceptionalism in public policy. The point of departure is the observation that Western democratic welfare states have often developed sectoral governance arrangements where governments negotiated policy with sectoral elites, based on shared ideas and exclusive institutional arrangements. Food and agriculture policy is widely considered an extreme case of the ensuing compartmentalized and ‘exceptionalist’ policy-making, where sector-specific policy ideas and institutions provide privileged access for sectoral interest groups and generate policies that benefit their members. In the last two decades, policy exceptionalism has been under pressure from internationalization of policy making, increasing interlinkage of policy areas and trends towards self-regulation, liberalization and performance-based policies. This special issue explains and applies the concept of ‘post-exceptionalism’ to characterize an incomplete transformation of exceptionalist policies with the result that old and new ideas, institutions, interests and policy instruments coexist in various combinations. Food and agriculture policy serves as an example to illustrate an incomplete transformation towards a more open, contested and networked politics that still betrays an enduring exceptionalist policy heritage. The articles of this themed issue demonstrate the analytical utility of the concept of post-exceptionalism to understand the co-existence of transformation and path dependency in contemporary public policy. The collection consists of articles that analyse recent developments in agricultural policy making in the European Union and the United States, environmental policy integration in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the politics of food in Germany and the United Kingdom, transnational organic standard setting, the role of productionism in global food security debates and the resilience of paradigm mixes in the international food trade regime. These contributions show that in agri-food policy, to varying degrees, changes have taken place in at least two of the four dimensions of policy exceptionalism (ideas, institutions, actors and policy). They also indicate that such partial transformation of policy means that in some situations post-exceptionalism can be a stable constellation while in others it may be a fragile and contested arrangement which can potentially move towards a ‘normalization’ of the policy sector or reverse to a more classical exceptionalist mode. The concept of post-exceptionalism provides a broader and more nuanced perspective on policy transition processes than typically found in studies of policy change. It promises to be useful to understand changes not just in agriculture and food policy, but in other domains of the transforming welfare state as well.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis and in the wake of the UK’s nearing exit from the EU, the future trajectory of European integration has seen its fair share of debate. Amid a myriad of differing views, it appears that Commission officials share the sentiment that any mid- and long-term strategy not only requires political support across European capitals but needs to resonate with society in the EU at large. Despite their crucial role in fostering societal ownership of the Commission’s initiatives, we know surprisingly little about how civil society organizations receive and respond to the latter’s visions for European integration. In his article “Exploring the emotional appeal of green and social Europe myths among pan-European Union organizations” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Kennet Lynggaard explores how pan-European Union non-governmental organizations perceive and reproduce political myths advanced in the European Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy. Drawing on an analysis of documents published by key “green” and “social” pan-EU NGOs, Kennet shows that civil society organizations are receptive to political myths advanced in the Commission’s Europe 2020 initiative and observes that most are “strategically using political myths to justify their policy positions.”
External trade policy is among national and European technocrats’ most carefully guarded portfolios, routinely resisting every attempt to transfer powers in concluding international trade agreements to the European Parliament. The Lisbon Treaty, however, opened a door to the European Parliament on external trade, granting it legislative powers over the EU’s trade policy and the right to veto international trade agreements. In her article “The impact of norms on political decision-making: how to account for the European Parliament’s empowerment in EU external trade policy” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Guri Rosén seizes on this puzzle and shows how the debate surrounding the empowerment of the European Parliament in external trade “became embedded in the general discussion about its legislative role in a more democratic EU.” Guri argues that during negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty, uncertainty and disagreement regarding the principles guiding reform placed a higher demand on actors to explain their positions. This environment favoured proponents of empowering the European Parliament in trade policy, and allowed the European Commission and the European Parliament to convince Member State governments “that extending the EP’s trade powers was reasonable because there were no valid arguments for exempting trade from the general rule of linking QMV and codecision.”
The balancing of budgets and spending cuts have been focal points of fiscal policies across Europe over the past years. Blurring the lines of traditional partisan divides, austerity measures have often been passed with the votes of left-wing parties. In his article “Social democratic austerity: the conditional role of agenda dynamics and issue ownership” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Jonas Kraft explores this puzzle, and explains why social democratic governments appear to abandon their key constituencies. Jonas argues that left-wing governments are traditionally plagued by a poor fiscal reputation. As concerns about balanced budgets top the political agenda, social democrats are drawn to favour austerity to covet electoral support from swing voters. His analysis of fiscal policy-making in 21 OECD countries between 1980 and 2006 offers support for this argument, yet also reveals that it is an electoral strategy seemingly doomed to fail. As left and right wing parties’ fiscal reputation has remained relatively stable, swing voters appear unimpressed by social democratic governments’ enthusiasm for austerity while core left-wing voters may turn to more radical left-wing alternatives, suggesting that “increasing attention to austerity is likely a lose–lose situation for the Left.”
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.”