Free movement and non-discrimination in an unequal Union

Susanne K. Schmidt (University of Bremen), Michael Blauberger (University of Salzburg) & Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen (University of Copenhagen)

The European Union’s fundamental principles of free movement of persons and non-discrimination challenge the traditional closure of the welfare state. Whereas this appeared largely unproblematic before Eastern enlargement, the increased heterogeneity in economic development and welfare provision among EU Member States has spurred fears about potential welfare migration. JEPP’s most recent special issue on “Free movement and non-discrimination in an unequal Union” edited by Susanne K. Schmidt, Michael Blauberger and Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen addresses this increasingly salient subject. The special issue brings together a collection of articles of the TransJudFare project as well as other experts to explore the current dynamics, scope and limits of free movement and equal treatment for EU citizens on the move.

The contributions are covering three main issues: One part is discussing the normative basis and the legal evolution of EU citizenship, free movement and cross-border access to social benefits. Another part analyses the politicisation of free movement from the perspective of individual attitudes and domestic institutions. A third part examines the theoretical and empirical nexus between European free movement and its reconciliation with the welfare state’s need for closure with regard to social benefits and study grants.

By analysing free movement and equal treatment from multiple perspectives, this special issue adds to several core debates in current EU studies. This includes the (im)balance between liberal market freedoms and social protection; the relative power of judicial and political decision-making in the EU; the gap between abstract EU legal principles and Member State implementation on the ground; and, lastly, the differences between actual problem pressure and patterns of politicisation.

Stakeholders wanted! Why and how European Union agencies involve non-state stakeholders

Sarah Arras (SB OverSeas) & Caelesta Braun (Leiden University)

Over the past twenty years, EU agencies have proliferated as part of the Eurocracy. Notwithstanding their different tasks and varying competences, they tend to share a common feature: they engage closely with non-state stakeholders, including industry associations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. In their article “Stakeholders wanted! Why and how European Union agencies involve non-state stakeholders” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Sarah Arras and Caelesta Braun note that although non-state stakeholder appear to assume an important role in EU agencies’ affairs, we know little about how EU agencies involve non-state stakeholders – or why agencies engage them in the first place. To address these questions, Sarah and Caelesta draw on a novel dataset of access instruments employed by EU agencies and a series of interviews with EU agency officials. Evidence from their analysis suggests that non-state stakeholder involvement not only responds to EU agencies’ demands, such as requests for expertise or attempts to shore up their organizational reputation, but also serves the European Parliament as an instrument of indirect control over the myriad of independent agencies. However, Sarah and Caelesta’s analysis also highlights “that rather than being independent and insulated from external pressures, as the idea of delegation to experts suggests, EU regulatory agencies are strongly embedded in a network of stakeholders”, risking a dependence on the regulated industry.

Opportunity or threat? Public attitudes towards EU freedom of movement

Sofia Vasilopoulou (University of York) & Liisa Talving (University of York)

A cornerstone of European integration, the freedom to work and live anywhere within the European Union is possibly the most visible and cherished perk of EU citizenship. However, for several years the freedom of movement has been the source of a contentious debate, featuring prominently in the rhetoric of Eurosceptic parties re-shaping the political landscape and the EU’s ongoing negotiations over the United Kingdom’s exit from the union in March 2019. In their article “Opportunity or threat? Public attitudes towards EU freedom of movement” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Sofia Vasilopoulou and Liisa Talving explore the drivers of the public’s attitudes towards intra-EU migration. Combining evidence from four waves of Eurobarometer surveys administered between 2015 and 2017, Sofia and Liisa’s analysis shows that respondents with low levels of skills and education as well as those holding strong feelings about national identity are the ones most likely to oppose freedom of movement. These findings need to be evaluated in a domestic context, however. Digging a little deeper, Sofia and Liisa show that individual-level factors are clearly moderated by country affluence, with generally high levels of support for intra-EU migration in poorer EU member states, even among respondents typically perceived as Eurosceptic. Crucially, Sofia and Liisa’s analysis highlights that “[c]itizens in richer countries that tend to receive more EU migrants and where the question of EU mobility is more salient seem to be more prone to perceiving EU freedom of movement as a threat.”

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.”

European integration and the race to the top in counterterrorist regulations

Mariaelisa Epifanio (University of Liverpool)

The threat of international terrorism encourages governments to enact policies that make domestic targets less attractive for terrorist groups. Mariaelisa Epifanio and Thomas Plümper argue that governments’ counterterrorist policies not only put pressure on domestic civil rights – they can also have detrimental effects on the respect for civil liberties abroad. As effective counterterrorist measures render some countries less viable targets, terrorist groups face incentives to focus their attention on places where less restrictive policies are in place. To avoid being targeted, this dynamic induces governments to outbid each other in an effort to implement effective counterterrorist regulations, often on the back of a deteriorating respect for civil liberties. In their article “European integration and the race to the top in counterterrorist regulations” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Mariaelisa and Thomas find evidence that the EU’s supranational counterterrorism strategy mitigated EU member states’ competition over restrictive counterterrorism policy by providing a common minimum standard of regulations. Comparing government responses to terrorist threats in EU member states with counterfactual, Western non-EU states, Mariaelisa and Thomas show that prior to 2008, EU governments had implemented substantively fewer counterterrorism measures than their comparable non-EU counterparts. Challenging accounts generally associating European integration with a proliferation of regulations, evidence from their analysis suggests that the EU’s supranational response to the threat of international terrorism “may lead to a harmonization of counterterrorist regulations and breaks the regulatory spiral that pushes counterterrorist policies upwards.”

The politics and economics of Brexit

Simon Bulmer (University of Sheffield) & Lucia Quaglia (University of Bologna)

By Simon Bulmer and Lucia Quaglia

The British referendum on continuing membership of the European Union (EU) in June 2016 represented a turning point in the relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the EU. The result—a 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent victory for Leave voters on a high turnout of 72.2 percent—was accepted by Prime Minister David Cameron as a defeat; he resigned. In March 2017, the British government under Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, officially beginning the negotiations UK withdrawal from the EU – the Brexit process. Brexit raises a set of important questions that this special issue sets out to address: i) what are the repercussions of Brexit for the EU, to be precise its policies, the relations between member states and the domestic contestation of the EU? ii) what are the consequence of Brexit for the UK, specifically for British politics and the British economy? iii) What are the implication of Brexit for theories of EU integration?

The economic and political effects of Brexit will be far-reaching for the UK and the EU and warrant scholarly examination. This special issue investigates the implications of Brexit for the EU and the UK, placing this assessment in the context of the long-term evolution of Britain’s relations with the EU. It also draws some lessons from Brexit, relating it to long-standing debates within the literature on EU policy-making, comparative politics and political economy. The articles in the first part of the special issue explores the implications of Brexit for key policy areas, namely the single market, finance and immigration. The second part explores important ‘horizontal’ or thematic issues, namely lessons from Brexit for theories of integration, the balance of power in the EU amongst the main member states post-Brexit, the evolution of the domestic political contestation in the EU, and the impact of Brexit on domestic politics in the UK.

The impact of the Directorates General on the EU legislative process

Anastasia Ershova (University of Konstanz)

The European Parliament and the Council rely heavily on the Commission’s Directorates General when it comes to policy implementation. Commission officials may have their own distinct policy preferences, hence the European Parliament and Council need to carefully tune the discretion they grant to Directorates at the implementation stage. In her article “The Watchdog or the Mandarin? Assessing the impact of the Directorates General on the EU legislative process” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Anastasia Ershova argues that the proximity of preferences among the Directorates themselves, as well as vis-à-vis the European Parliament and Council, provides the latter with clues regarding the Commission’s future behaviour on policy implementation. Anastasia shows that when preferences of lead Directorates General overlap with those of the European Parliament and Council, bureaucrats in charge of implementation are expected to steer policy closer to preferred outcomes of the EU’s legislating institutions and consequently enjoy wider discretionary limits. When it comes to advancing European integration, discord among the Commission and a less-integrationist lead Directorate incentivises the European Parliament and Council to grant the latter sufficient leeway to steer policy outcomes away from more extreme positions of the Commission. Anastasia’s contribution highlights the benefits of paying close attention to the motivations of individual Directorates General rather than treating the Commission as a unitary actor: “[I]nternal conflict and deviating preferences within this institution shape both policy proposals and the discretionary power available to the Commission at the implementation stage.”

The Spitzenkandidaten in European elections: In the spotlight or largely ignored?

Daniela Braun (LMU Munich) & Tobias Schwarzbözl (LMU Munich)

The nomination of lead candidates, or so-called Spitzenkandidaten, representing the biggest European political groups in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2014 fuelled hopes that electorates across Europe would finally show a stronger interest in European political debates and shake off the EU’s lingering democratic deficit. In the end, the Spitzenkandidaten hardly turned out to be the game-changers many hoped they would be. Instead, little interest in the candidates’ televised debate complemented voters’ general lack of knowledge about the candidates’ political profiles. In their article “Put in the spotlight or largely ignored? Emphasis on the Spitzenkandidaten by political parties in their online campaigns for European elections” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Daniela Braun and Tobias Schwarzbözl highlight that even national parties themselves were often unwilling to centre campaign efforts on their respective lead candidate. Using original data on national parties’ social media campaigns for the 2014 European Parliament elections, Daniela and Tobias show that only national parties affiliated with lead candidates generally placed a strong emphasis on the Spitzenkandidaten in their campaigns. The reluctance to put the spotlight on the Spitzenkandidaten indicates that not every national party faced sufficient incentives to rally behind their lead candidate in campaign communications. Casting doubt on hopes that lead candidates would help diminish the second-order status of EP elections, Daniela and Tobias’ analysis suggests that “the idea behind the introduction of Spitzenkandidaten to strengthen the relevance of these elections collides with most parties’ strategic considerations to make the candidates visible to voters.” Will the campaign for the upcoming 2019 elections be any different?