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Networking for resources: how regulators use networks to compensate for lower staff levels

Francesca Pia Vantaggiato (University of California, Davis)

How do EU member states’ regulatory agencies cope with their broad portfolio of tasks when their resources are scarce? In her article “Networking for resources: how regulators use networks to compensate for lower staff levels” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Francesca Pia Vantaggiato argues that less well-resourced regulators turn to their informal networks with counterparts in other EU member states to source the necessary expertise to accomplish their tasks. Since the maintenance of networks involves costs, Francesca Pia expects regulatory agencies with intermediate levels of resources to benefit most from informal networking with their peers. Drawing on data from a survey of EU member states’ energy regulators fielded in 2015 and 2016, she finds evidence supporting her claim that it is predominantly agencies with access to moderate levels of resources engaging in network activism. Francesca Pia’s analysis highlights the benefits of national regulators’ embeddedness in the EU: Interdependence within the EU facilitates ties to well-resourced regulators in other member states, suggesting that European regulatory networks “have a consistent impact on improving European regulatory policy and practice via the national level.”

Institutional amnesia and public policy

Alastair Stark (University of Queensland) & Brian Head (University of Queensland)

We may believe that there is an inherent value in experimenting with policy reforms: Even in the unfortunate event of a policy not delivering its promised benefits, policy-makers have learned a lesson that would allow them to turn future initiatives into a success story. Alastair Stark and Brian Head warn that such optimistic views on ‘organizational learning’ omit the reality of ‘organizational forgetting’. In their article “Institutional amnesia and public policy” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Alastair and Brian present evidence from interviews with 100 senior policy practitioners from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to highlight that policy-makers themselves consider institutional amnesia as a serious concern undermining the performance of public administrations. Alastair and Brian offer a multi-dimensional operationalization of institutional amnesia, hypothesise how amnesia affects various fields of policy-making, and discuss how its detrimental effects can be mitigated. Acknowledging that a concern about organizational forgetting has fallen through the cracks of scholarly interest before, Alastair and Brian emphasize that “remedies for memory-loss will only be found once policy scholars realize what policy practitioners already know – that we cannot afford to keep forgetting about institutional amnesia.”

Parties, governments and the integration of immigrants

Lasse Aaskoven (University of Essex)

Ensuring the seamless integration of immigrants into the workforce has been a prominent concern for policy-makers in many developed democracies. High rates of unemployment among immigrants are often thought to put a strain on welfare systems and may fuel anti-immigrant sentiments within societies. In his article “Parties, governments and the integration of immigrants” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Lasse Aaskoven notes that some administrations must jump higher hurdles than others to foster immigrants’ successful integration into the labour market. He argues that single-party majority governments are in a better position to successfully reduce employment gaps between foreign and native-born workers than multi-party coalitions. An analysis of panel data comprising 28 OECD countries offers evidence that coalition governments’ need to reconcile diverging policy positions on immigration hinders the design of coherent, effective integrational policy packages. Since coalition governments are common across Europe, these findings are a cause for concern, as “party and electoral systems which give rise to multi-party and minority governments might thus indirectly be a non-trivial hindrance for better labor market integration of immigrants within developed democracies.”

Late bloomer? Agricultural policy integration and coordination patterns in climate policies

Nicole M. Schmidt (Heidelberg University)

Agriculture not only ranks among the biggest contributors to climate change, but the agricultural sector is also one of the most vulnerable to the impact of rising temperatures and extreme weather events. In light of its contribution and exposure to climate change, we may expect agriculture to feature prominently in debates on climate policy. In her article “Late bloomer? Agricultural policy integration and coordination patterns in climate policies” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Nicole M. Schmidt notes that despite its status, agriculture nonetheless seems to fall “between the cracks in climate policymaking.” Nicole analyses the content of more than 1,000 climate policies of 176 developed and developing countries adopted between 1990 and 2017 to identify whether climate policies reference agricultural issues and whether agriculture ministries were involved in the policy-making process. Nicole’s findings show that about half of the examined climate policies feature agricultural or food-related items, with an uptick in mentions of agricultural issues in both EU and non-EU countries’ climate policies since 2005. However, her findings also demonstrate that the remaining half of climate policies omit agricultural issues, while input from agricultural ministries is hardly ever mentioned. Based on this evidence, Nicole concludes that the “fragmentation of agricultural components and the absence of agricultural ministries in the coordination process highlight the challenges of integrating agriculture into climate policies and suggest that both domains continue to co-exist rather than to merge into an entity.”

Democratically deficient, yet responsive? How politicization facilitates responsiveness in the European Union

Iskander De Bruycker (University of Antwerp)

Time and again, critical voices have highlighted that the EU’s political system suffers from a democratic deficit: EU policy tends to rank low on salience for European citizens while elections to the European Parliament are largely fought out in the shadow of national politics. These assessments would suggest that the European public’s preferences play a negligible role in determining the course of EU policy. Nonetheless, recent studies provide evidence that despite the EU’s democratic deficiencies, its policy output is often remarkably congruent with citizens’ priorities. In his article “Democratically deficient, yet responsive? How politicization facilitates responsiveness in the European Union” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Iskander De Bruycker addresses this puzzle and shows that the politicization of EU policy processes facilitates EU decision-makers’ responsiveness to demands for new policy initiatives voiced by European citizens. Drawing on evidence from Eurobarometer surveys on 15 policy issues between 2010 and 2016 as well as a content analysis of almost 6,000 media statements by political elites, Iskander shows that civil society groups’ mobilization in the media coupled with citizens’ demands for new initiatives are important determinants of EU decision-making. Iskander concludes that his findings point to a ‘politicization paradox’: “On the one hand, further politicization may derail deeper integration and induce policy deadlock”, yet “[o]n the other hand, politicization is a necessary condition for democratic deliberation and control for the EU to develop into a responsive and democratically mature political system.”

Loyal soldiers or seasoned leaders? The selection of committee chairs in the European Parliament

Mihail Chiru (Université catholique de Louvain)

Committee chairs are a coveted prize among Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): MEPs serving as chairs exercise discretion over their respective committee’s agenda, they have a say on who gets invited to committee hearings and they get a seat at the table of inter-institutional negotiations on new policy initiatives, the so-called trilogues. Although committee chairs in the European Parliament undoubtedly play an influential role in the EU’s policy-making process, Mihail Chiru notes that “we know virtually nothing about how committee chairs are selected”. In his article “Loyal soldiers or seasoned leaders? The selection of committee chairs in the European Parliament” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Mihail draws on evidence from the European Parliament’s first seven terms between 1979 and 2014 to identify the drivers of committee chair allocations. His findings suggest that MEPs with prior experience as committee chairs stand a better chance of securing (re-)appointment than their less-experienced colleagues. In contrast, MEPs’ voting records and loyalty to their European party groups (EPGs) appears irrelevant for the allocation of committee chairs. In light of this evidence, Mihail concludes that the office allocation of committee chairs “mainly serves the informational needs of the EPGs and a premium is put on experience in the role, acquired in the EP and less so on pure policy expertise.”

Meeting expectations in the EU regulatory state? How EU agencies navigate conflicting demands in their communications

Madalina Busuioc (Leiden University) & Dovilė Rimkutė (Leiden University)

The European Union’s regulatory agencies enjoy a comprehensive portfolio of competences and play a critical role at several stages of the EU’s policy-making process. They supply the European Commission with independent expertise, set standards in specific policy areas and monitor the implementation of EU rules. This broad set of powers comes with a catch, however: EU agencies need to cultivate their organisational reputation among external audiences to foster their autonomy from political actors, yet due to their various roles tend to face conflicting expectations from these audiences. In their article “Meeting expectations in the EU regulatory state? Regulatory communications amid conflicting institutional demands” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Madalina Busuioc and Dovilė Rimkutė explore how EU regulatory agencies respond to the expectations of multiple audiences. Madalina and Dovilė develop a novel dictionary to analyse the text of every annual report published by the EU’s regulatory agencies and identify which aspects of their reputation agencies emphasise, how these vary over time, and why. Results of their analysis suggest that EU regulatory agencies become more strategic over time in their communication and diversify their reputational repertoire: “[r]ather than boldly venturing into ‘moral’ legitimation grounds, their communication efforts have expanded into performative aspects, consistent with the EU’s regulatory state output legitimation criteria for its regulators.”

Legal framing and the EU’s external relations: how NGOs shaped the negotiations for an Israel-Europol cooperation agreement

Patrick Müller (University of the Basque Country) & Peter Slominski (University of Vienna)

A multitude of actors at the national and supranational level typically have a stake in the EU’s relationship with third countries. Governmental and non-governmental actors seek to frame debates over the EU’s external relations in ways that suit their own interests. In their article “Legal framing and the EU’s external relations: how NGOs shaped the negotiations for an Israel-Europol cooperation agreement” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Patrick Müller and Peter Slominski highlight that a recourse to legal arguments can give actors with limited power resources the upper hand in shaping the EU’s foreign policy. Patrick and Peter argue that strategies of legal framing, encompassing intimate knowledge of and an ability to align arguments with the laws regulating conduct in a legal community, allow non-governmental organizations to leave their mark on the EU’s external relations. Their analysis of the negotiations on the Israel-Europol agreement shows that an EU-registered civil society organization, the MATTIN Group, employed various strategies of legal framing, highlighting that a draft text of the agreement would have been inconsistent with the EU’s legal position, and ultimately convincing EU officials to include additional conditions in their negotiations with their Israeli counterparts. The evidence presented by Patrick and Peter illustrates that by connecting its legal reasoning with a stable understanding of the law within the EU, the MATTIN Group managed “to develop a powerful legal frame, which finally prevailed in the intra-EU debate despite a strong political interest to reach an agreement.”

Writing blank checks? How government funding affects interest organisations’ advocacy behaviour in a multi-layered context

Frederik Heylen (University of Antwerp) & Evelien Willems (University of Antwerp)

Public officials often count on the technical expertise of organised interests when designing policy and employ them as intermediaries to facilitate subsequent implementation. And since organised interests tend to depend on government’s financial support, we can observe that rules attached to government’s provision of funding shapes the advocacy behaviour of organised interests. While this relationship has been well-documented in national contexts, we know surprisingly little about the drivers of organised interests’ advocacy behaviour when they face funders at different levels of the EU’s multi-layered political system. In their article “Writing blank checks? How government funding affects interest organisations’ advocacy behaviour in a multi-layered context” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Frederik Heylen and Evelien Willems draw on a survey of 727 Belgian interest organisations as well as an analysis of relevant legislation and expert interviews to show that organised interests’ reliance on sub- and supranational funding induces fewer interactions with government officials at the national level.  In contrast, organised interests depending on support of funders at the national level show no tendency to cut their ties with subnational governments. Frederik and Evelien argue that the specific funding rules employed at different levels of government account for this pattern: “Whilst national funding is used to incentivise cooperation across regions, subnational rules on funding are not conducive for multi-level advocacy behaviour”, often coming with stringent territoriality requirements.

Opening up by closing off: How increased transparency triggers informalisation in EU decision-making

Evelyn Coremans (KU Leuven)

In an attempt to shake off the secrecy surrounding the EU’s trade negotiations, the European Commission is obliged, since 2009, to immediately and fully inform members of the European Parliament of its deliberations with third parties. Some may say unsurprisingly, the transparency-enhancing role of the European Parliament has come in hand with an informalisation of communication between Commission and Parliament: As transparency threatens confidentiality and quick decision-making, Commission officials turned to an informalisation of communication to preserve the efficiency of their trade negotiations, yet arguably eroded the transparency gains achieved through the 2009 reform. In her article “Opening up by closing off: How increased transparency triggers informalisation in EU decision-making” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Evelyn Coremans challenges the common perception that informalisation conflicts with the goals of transparency reforms. Focusing on the case of the EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Evelyn develops a causal mechanism linking the increased transparency of TTIP negotiations to the informalisation of interactions between the Commission and the European Parliament. Evidence from her case study supports Evelyn’s expectation that the Commission’s informalisation of communication improved the quantity and quality of information exchange with members of the European Parliament, much in line with the goals of the transparency reform. Evelyn concludes that the “informalisation of Parliament-Commission communication for TTIP is an improvement to a system where secrecy and confidentiality between Council and Commission reigned supreme only a few years before.”