Referendums on specific EU policies or EU integration more generally have become a familiar feature of EU politics. Dermot Hodson and Imelda Maher consider three main explanations for governments’ increasing call for referendums: to secure bargaining advantages at the EU level, to enhance political standing domestically and to (de-)legitimize EU decision-making. Based on case studies of eight single issue referendums in five EU member states, they demonstrate that governments tend to call a referendum when the issue at stake can be approved under domestic law, but lacks political legitimacy. Government leaders use referendums either to manage internal party differences, gain electoral advantages over rivals or boost their personal popularity. In light of these results, Dermot and Imelda contend that referendums as a strategic instrument of direct democracy will remain a prominent feature of EU politics in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has an uneven economic impact with women facing more negative financial consequences than men. To understand whether this unequal economic burden translated into gendered differences in support for national governments, Jacopo Mazza and Marco Scipioni analyze survey data on European citizens’ attitudes and opinions during the COVID-19 pandemic between April and October 2020. They show that the initially high support for governments has generally decreased in the period under investigation and that the decline in government support was most pronounced amongst working women. This finding can be explained by the higher burden placed on women who tend to be employed in sectors heavily exposed to pandemic-containment measures in comparison to men. Overall, the article provides further evidence that socio-demographic groups most affected by the crisis are also the ones who express lower support for their government.
Under which conditions do individuals support a universal basic income (UBI)? Taking a comparative perspective, Leire Rincon investigates how the specific design of UBI shapes public support for such a policy compared to other policy proposals. Leire argues that its universality and unconditionality generate opposition to UBI since these principles depart from traditional welfare rationales of giving those in need. Hence, if deservingness considerations are met, support for UBI should increase. The results of a conjoint experiment conducted in Spain reveal that while universality is the most controversial feature of the policy, unconditionality is not. Additionally, using progressive funding mechanisms such as taxing the rich and limiting eligibility increase support for UBI. The findings imply that support for UBI may be fostered through policy design (i.e. if the policy is funded by the rich) so that even unpopular features may enjoy public backing.
Another turbulent year draws to a close. We would like to thank you, our dear reviewers, authors and readers, for making 2021 a busy and successful year for JEPP. Only thanks to your support, JEPP’s machine kept humming despite the ongoing difficult situation and uncertainties surrounding the COVID pandemic.
Hopefully, all of you can enjoy a well-deserved break over the holidays. We are looking forward to seeing you in the next year! Stay tuned for our upcoming issues, debate sections and special issues. Follow us on Twitter (@jepp_journal), read and subscribe to our newsletter.
Season’s greetings and all good wishes,
Your JEPP team
PS: And if you’re keen to know how JEPP’s editorial team will spend their holidays, go ahead and scroll down!
Since last year’s wishes of a bit more “old normal” only partly came true, Michi and his family decided to come to terms with the new normal and moved into a new apartment with a small garden, while staying in their favorite quarter of Munich, Neuhausen. Desk and books are already arranged zoom-friendly, but almost three months later, there is still enough to be done for the holiday break – lights, curtains, and most importantly a new guest sofa.
In 2021, with the birth of little Tilda, Sarah’s life turned upside down. Since summer, for most parts, instead of writing and reading, she found herself changing nappies and rocking the baby to sleep during extensive walks. These days, she has swaped her hiking boots for cross-country skis and profits from (‘tourist-free’) empty slopes during lockdown. Hopefully, Tilda will finally start liking her car seat so that she (well, and Alex and Sarah) can enjoy her first ride to the Black Forest where they will spend Christmas together with Sarah’s family.
Pandemic lifestyle changes take their toll, because Berthold was pretty nervous when he took his first flight in two years to travel to Rome for a small workshop. Aimlessly wandering around the eternal city in the early morning hours was definitely one of the highlights this year. Staying safe (and sane) is no lesser highlight, so Berthold is extremely grateful to his family (and cat) for being so wonderful. And in 2021 he finally learned how to brew a proper espresso.
Tess and Molly will be joining Sonia and I at our Akaroa house for our, now traditional, New Zealand Christmas. Murphy will also be coming along. He loves the car ride to Akaroa, but the real plus for him is that our two cats stay at home and he gets all our attention. The girls will go kayaking if the weather holds, but Sonia and I will stay on the beach with Murphy. He is none too keen on actually going into the (usually cold) sea. Murphy is no fool! Indeed, he is so clever that I suggested he might make a submission to JEPP, but as yet he shows not the slightest interest. I showed him the latest rankings too. Maybe he is not as clever as I think he is?
At the EU level, policy outputs reflect compromises between a wide range of actors. Amongst these actors, the European Parliament takes up a special position since it is the only directly elected EU institution. To further shed light on the EP’s role in this complex policy-making process, in his recently published article, Rory Costello examines how the EP’s ideological positioning feeds into legislative negotiations. Covering the period between 1999 and 2019, Rory finds that the policy positions adopted by the EP more closely reflect the ideological profile of the major party groups (the EPP, S&D and ALDE) than the median MEP. In addition, the EP tends to adopt a pro-integration position in line with its ideological composition, but there is no evidence of a systematic policy bias towards integration relative to the member states. Overall, the findings indicate that MEPs adhere to the policy programs on which they were elected and do not prioritize increasing the influence of the EP through deeper integration. The EP, thus, seems to be more responsive to the voters than some critics might suspect.
Even though most Council delegations are composed of coalitions of ideologically diverse parties, its members are often conceptualized as a single player per member state. Questioning the monolithic interpretation of national interests in the Council, Petia Kostadinova and Amie Kreppel investigate in their article the extent to which partisan differences within government coalitions manifest themselves in the positions expressed within the Council. They argue that delegations consist of multiple actors who might have different preferences than the partners in the national government. To account for the potential preference divergence, Petia and Amie analyze the differences between the policy position of each member state in the Council and the preferences of the respective governing coalitions between 1996-2018. The analyses demonstrate that ministers can indeed shape a state’s position to align more closely with their own preferences rather than to one of their coalition partners. Coalition agreements, however, reduce policy drift, possibly because they constrain ministers or because they reduce the minister’s need to shift policy outcomes since they represent policy compromises. Overall, this study suggests that when analyzing decision-making at the EU level, future research should take into consideration that member states in the Council are not necessarily unitary actors.
Freedom of movement is one of the key principles of EU integration and has provoked mixed attitudes in particular in Eastern Europe: While public support for free movement is high, negative externalities of this principle, such as population loss, become increasingly noticeable. Against this background, Christof Roos explores in his article EU responses to the expectation gap between the policy design of free movement (e.g. export of surplus labour, remittances) and its outcomes (e.g. brain drain, labour shortage). Based on content analysis of scholarly literature, EU documents and English language news outlets from 2010 to 2020, Christof demonstrates that Central and Eastern European governments managed to transform national discontent with the effects of freedom of movement into a call for compensation. To respond to the policy’s negative externalities, the overall setting of the principle of freedom of movement has only changed slightly. Instead, through the process of ‘institutional layering’ new compensatory measures were introduced to the freedom of movement framework in order to account for population loss. With these findings, the article implies that this strategy of institutional layering allows to incrementally change policy frameworks while preserving the status quo of key principles.
Postfunctionalist scholarship has long argued that EU integration leads to the politicization of European policymaking accompanied by growing public objection to additional transfers of authority to the EU-level. Yoav Raskin and Tal Sadeh explore the mechanism through which European integration increases voters’ support for political parties that oppose the transfer of authority in their article “Responsive voters – how European integration empowers Eurosceptic parties”. As a result of a mixed-method design, they find that the timing and type of EU events matter. Eurosceptic parties particularly benefit from integration events that have a potential for high media profile, signal reduced state autonomy, and occur in proximity to national elections. Even if mainstream parties counter the claims of Eurosceptic parties, the net effect is a ratcheting up of electoral support for the latter. By creating a salient political issue that crosscuts mainstream cleavages and empowers Eurosceptic parties, the authors project that European integration may become increasingly self-undermining through empowering its own opposition.
International institutions often take recourse to pretrial bargaining procedures to prevent accidental noncompliance with international law arising from, for example, government misinterpretation or lack of administrative capacity. Pretrial bargaining allows settling cases involving accidental noncompliance before going to court, which frees up resources for cases involving intentional noncompliance. In their article “Improving the efficiency of pretrial bargaining in disputes over noncompliance with international law: encouraging evidence from the European Union”, Sivaram Cheruvu and Joshua Fjelstul investigate how international institutions can improve the efficiency of pretrial bargaining. Their analysis of EU Pilot, a policy initiative designed to enhance the efficiency of pretrial bargaining in the EU, yields promising results. As such, EU Pilot significantly improves the efficiency of pretrial bargaining, speeding up the initial phase of bargaining by approximately 74 days. The authors summarize their findings with a piece of advice geared at policymakers seeking to counter noncompliance: “improving communication with implementing actors during the policy implementation process is a viable policy solution to improve the efficiency of bargaining in pretrial dispute-settlement procedures without resorting to sanctioning mechanisms.”
In any democratic system, political decision-makers should shape policies according to public preferences. In the context of the EU, the public-to-policy linkage is often thought to be weak. In their article “A responsive relationship? setting the political agenda in the European Union”, Magda Giurcanu and Petia Kostadinova research the extent to which the European Commission responds to the preferences of the European public. They find that the Commission’s efforts to respond to public dissatisfaction with the EU already began during the first Barroso Presidency. The comparison between Europarties’ pledges issued during the 2004 EP elections and subsequent Commission policy priorities reveals that the Commission and the EP generally address the same topics in their public statements. Three conditions facilitate the Commission’s consideration of the EP’s agenda: (1) when levels of Euroscepticism are high, both in terms of principled opposition and critical positions towards European integration; (2) when the public cares deeply about the policies under consideration; and (3) when the topic of the policy proposal falls under a Commission Directorate best described as friendly to the public. Thus, the authors conclude that despite being an unelected body, the Commission strategically responds to pressures from below by taking into account the EP’s policy agenda in its policy priorities.