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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.”

JEPP’s Reviewer Prize 2017

Frank Baumgartner (UNC Chapel Hill) & Eva Thomann (University of Exeter)

Refereeing is the lifeblood of our profession, at least in this day and age. As authors and editors, we have to take it for granted that our colleagues invest time and effort into assessing the quality of our work. We as editors, of JEPP never cease to be grateful that (until now!) we always find dedicated colleagues who take on this important task for every single paper that we send out for review (and there are luckily many papers making their way to JEPP). We owe our reviewers an immense amount of recognition and gratitude. To emphasize the importance of reviewing, we have decided to award an annual reviewer prize, following the admirable step that some other journals in our discipline have already taken. With this prize we want to recognize the exceptional commitment of our reviewers as well as their selfless investment in helping to improve the work of colleagues.

This year, we are happy to award the first two reviewer prizes to honour these qualities to:

Frank Baumgartner (UNC Chapel Hill)

Eva Thomann (University of Exeter)

Congratulations to our prize winners!

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”.

JEPP’s Best Paper Prize 2017

We are happy to announce the winner of the JEPP’s Best Paper Prize for 2017. Two members of JEPP’s editorial board, Will Jennings (University of Southampton) and Arndt Wonka (University of Bremen) selected among all original articles published in JEPP in 2017 (excluding Special Issues) their favorite piece:

Eva Heims (2017) ‘Regulatory co-ordination in the EU: a cross-sector comparison’, Journal of European Public Policy 24(8), 116-1134.

Eva Heims (University of York)

Statement: “The article ‘Regulatory co-ordination in the EU: a cross-sector comparison’ by Eva Heims of the University of York is an important study that shows that national regulators’ attitudes towards co-ordination by the EU are driven by the aim to protect their turf. The author specifies arguments that lead us to expect national regulatory agencies to engage in or refrain from horizontal cooperation between agencies in the EU regulatory system. The paper thus makes an important contribution to a better understanding of the conditions for successful administrative cooperation and implementation in EU regulatory politics. The research design has been carefully crafted to obtain data that can meaningfully inform the theoretical arguments. To provide original insights into regulatory coordination, the author draws on comparative case studies of food control and maritime safety in Germany and the UK. That data was obtained from policy documents and through semi-structured interviews with officials.

The article provides insights both in its theoretical arguments and empirical evidence. It argues for a new understanding of how national regulators use EU coordination to maintain their bureaucratic turf and should thus be of interest to students of public administration, regulatory policy-making and EU politics more generally.”

The prize-winning article will be freely available online until the end of 2018. JEPP’s editorial team congratulates Eva on winning the JEPP Best Paper Prize for 2017!

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.”

JEPP@25 – Our Best-Of Collection

Throughout 2018, we ask JEPP authors and members from JEPP’s editorial board to share with us their stories as to how the research published in JEPP over the past 25 years influenced their own thinking and research about Europe, the EU, and public policy. This is what they are saying.


Jale Tosun, Heidelberg University, Germany

Kelemen, R. Daniel. Globalizing European Union Environmental Policy. Journal of European Public Policy 17(3), 2010, pp. 335-349.

Jale Tosun (Heidelberg University)

Together with the JEPP article by Robert Falkner on the “political economy of ‘normative power’ Europe” (volume 14, issue 4), this contribution by Daniel Kelemen offers a thought-provoking and compelling discussion of the rational foundations of the EU’s efforts to spread its environmental standards globally. By adopting this perspective, Kelemen challenges the scholarship that describes the EU a ‘normative’ power. Elegantly written and logically consistent, this piece demonstrates that two-level games also apply to complex and multi-levelled organizations such as the EU. On the one hand, the EU is constrained by demands for ambitious environmental policies by its member states and the European Parliament (internal dimension). On the other hand, the EU itself strives to constrain the policy choices of non-EU states by promoting international agreements that ‘export’ its most preferred policy positions internationally (external dimension). This strategic lens on the EU’s behavior helped in developing an exciting body of literature that combines public policy research with scholarship in international political economy.


Jan Beyers, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Jan Beyers (University of Antwerp)

During the past 25 years, the Journal of European Public Policy, in particular its founding editor Jeremy Richardson, played a key role in developing the research field on interest representation, lobbying and advocacy. In my role as editor of Interest Groups & Advocacy I am always struck by how influential work published in JEPP is for our field; almost every paper we review has at least one reference to an article or a special issue JEPP published. My own research on political representation, but also my work on Europeanization and regional politics, has been heavily inspired by JEPP. For instance, my Endnote database contains no less than 83 papers which I have regularly cited over the years. Hence, it is extremely difficult to point at one single paper that has influenced my work. I would like to highlight some older papers that were extremely inspirational. Interesting about these papers is that they connect the issue of interest representation to broader political science puzzles about institutional development, political legitimacy, responsiveness and accountability. So, there are many good reasons to re-read these three papers:

Grande, Edgar. The state and interest groups in the framework of multi-level decision-making: the case of the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 3(3), 1996, pp. 318-338.

Coen, David. The evolution of the large firm as a political actor in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 4(1), 1997, pp. 91-108.

Pollack, Mark A. Representing diffuse interests in EC policy-making. Journal of European Public Policy 4(4), 1997, pp. 572-590.


Christine Reh, University College London, United Kingdom

Simon Hix. The study of the European Union II: the ‘new governance’ agenda and its rival. Journal of European Public Policy 5(1), 1998, pp. 38-65.

Christine Reh (University College London)

Published two decades ago, Simon Hix’s piece postulated—possibly overstated—a “new duality” in the study of the European Union: between the new governance agenda and its, then emerging, comparative rival. The article propagates a more extensive and more systematic use of the established theories and “toolkits” of Comparative Politics to analyse and evaluate the EU’s key political and democratic challenges at the turn of the millennium; this argument is based on a methodological (calling for comparison), theoretical (calling for rationalist actor-centred analysis) and normative (calling for a focus on input legitimacy) critique of the sui generis approach. Over the next decades, both the agenda and its rival went on to become the coherent bodies of scholarship Hix called for in the piece; both produced innovative work on the EU’s government, governance and policy-choices, ranging from deliberative democracy to bargaining models; and both continue to speak to EU scholars from across the methodological and theoretical spectrum. For me, it is therefore less the start of a successful journey from comparative rival to comparative turn that makes this article one of JEPP’s seminal contributions; it is the prescient identification of the EU’s current challenges—in particular, the constraints on domestic welfare choices, the tension between non-majoritarian and competitive elements of legitimation, the need for versus risk of politicising integration—, combined with the passionate plea for a coherent research agenda to address these challenges, that offers us a powerful link between the study of the European Union in the 1990s and the study of the more troubled but also more exciting European Union of today.

Happy JEPP@25: here is to more agendas and rivals over the next quarter of a century!