Administrative legitimacy and the democratic deficit of the European Union

Zuzana Murdoch (University of Agder), Sara Connolly (University of East Anglia) & Hussein Kassim (University of East Anglia)

In the debate revolving around the EU’s democratic deficit, much has been said about the EU’s electoral accountability, yet we know far less about its administrative legitimacy. The army of civil servants in Brussels may hail from all corners of the EU, but does the diversity of the EU’s administrative workforce provide their home communities with a voice in EU matters? In their article “Administrative legitimacy and the democratic deficit of the European Union” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Zuzana Murdoch, Sara Connolly and Hussein Kassim tap into this gap in our knowledge of the EU’s input legitimacy. Drawing on surveys among EU civil servants and Eurobarometer data, Zuzana, Sara and Hussein analyse whether the policy preferences of administrative staff in EU institutions reflect the preferences of their member states’ populations. Their results suggest that administrative staff in EU institutions in fact represent their constituencies better than their national colleagues in their country of origin. Challenging commonly held notions that the European Commission is aloof and isolated from public opinion, the article also has implications for our understanding of representative bureaucracy, suggesting “that it is not sufficient for a public bureaucracy to look like the wider community, but that within its workforce there must be staff members who think like them.”

Liberalizing markets, liberalizing welfare

Hanan Haber (London School of Economics, Photo credit LSE Department of Government)

The EU’s ventures into social policy-making have been few and far between, as member states remain reluctant to cede their competencies on taxation, spending and social insurance to the supranational level. Nonetheless, albeit a lack of capacity for social policy-making, positive integration via supranational social regulation can still have a crucial impact on welfare state regimes across the EU. In his article “Liberalizing markets, liberalizing welfare? Economic reform and social regulation in the EU’s electricity regime” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Hanan Haber analyses how and why social provisions were added to the EU’s electricity sector reform, highlighting their impact on national welfare states. Hanan’s research shows that the EU’s response to consumer dissatisfaction amid power blackouts and rising prices emphasised the protection of vulnerable consumers and the concept of energy poverty, which reflected regulations common in the liberal welfare regime of the United Kingdom. By adopting supranational social regulations concerned with an issue by and large exclusive to liberal welfare states, the EU introduced liberal welfare problems and solutions to other types of welfare regimes, effectively “promoting a liberal model of welfare through social regulation, pushing member states towards this type of welfare.”

A new research agenda for EU migration policies and politics

Saskia Bonjour (University of Amsterdam), Ariadna Ripoll Servent (Photo credit ©BAGSS | Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Bamberg) & Eiko Thielemann (London School of Economics)

Amid the communitarization of migration policy, the driving forces shaping EU migration governance have been the subject of a vivid scholarly debate. If anything, the fallout from the EU’s migration crisis is likely to fan the latter’s flames. Zooming in on the actors and mechanisms behind migration policy change in the EU, Saskia Bonjour, Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Eiko Thielemann identify three areas that deserve the attention of future research. In their article “Beyond venue shopping and liberal constraint: a new research agenda for EU migration policies and politics” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Saskia, Ariadna and Eiko call on future research to open up the black box of preference formation in member states and EU institutions, to analyse when, how and why we observe variation in actors’ influence in migration policy-making processes, and to embrace greater transparency in conceptualizing and measuring the extent and the content of policy change. They argue that scholars’ focus on these three axes may allow the community “to engage in a more productive debate and collectively work toward gaining greater insights into the multiple puzzles of EU migration governance.”

Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage

Liesbet Hooghe (University of North Carolina) & Gary Marks (University of North Carolina)

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.”

How the euro crisis bolstered beliefs in democratic principles

Hanspeter Kriesi (European University Institute)

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.”

From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics

Tanja A. Börzel (Freie Universität Berlin) & Thomas Risse (Freie Universität Berlin) Photo by Jan Pauls (2012)

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”.

Varieties of capitalism in light of the euro crisis

Peter A. Hall (Harvard University)

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”.

Post-exceptionalism in Public Policy: Transforming Food and Agricultural Policy

Carsten Daugbjerg (Australian National University & University of Copenhagen) & Peter H. Feindt (Wageningen University & Humboldt University at Berlin)

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.

The emotional appeal of “green” and “social” Europe myths

Kennet Lynggaard (Roskilde University)

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.”

The European Parliament’s empowerment in EU external trade policy

Guri Rosén (University of Oslo)

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.”