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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?

Capitalist diversity and compliance: economic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe after EU accession

Esther Ademmer (Kiel Institute for the World Economy)

Since the EU’s Eastern enlargement over a decade ago, Central and Eastern European member states’ track record of compliance with EU law has been closely scrutinized. It was feared that once the stick of withholding membership was gone, newer members states’ commitment to uphold EU law could potentially slump. In hindsight, it appears that these fears were unfounded: Until now, research has suggested that Central and Eastern European member states collectively fare well on the formal transposition of EU law, yet they struggle with de facto implementation. In search of an explanation for similar compliance patterns across Central and Eastern Europe, Esther Ademmer finds that compliance processes and outcomes among newer member states are not so homogenous after all. In her article “Capitalist diversity and compliance: economic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe after EU accession” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Esther uncovers variation in Central and Eastern European member states’ compliance with the Single Market acquis. Drawing on the Varieties of Capitalism literature, she identifies two clusters of newer member states, liberal and coordinated market economies, with different sets of explanatory factors shaping compliance patterns in the two groups. While the effectiveness of governments and their ideology appear to drive compliance in the liberal market economy cluster, Esther’s analysis suggests that among Central and Eastern European coordinated market economies “the interplay and preferences of various state and non-state actors are arguably more important for understanding compliance processes and outcomes”.

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.”

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.”