European Union: Power and Policy-Making

By Jeremy J. Richardson | Go to book overview

16

Eroding EU policies

Implementation gaps, cheating and re-steering

Jeremy Richardson

People now appear to think that implementation should be easy; they are, therefore, upset when expected events do not occur or turn out badly. We would consider our effort a success if people began with the understanding that implementation, under the best of circumstances, is exceedingly difficult. They would, therefore, be pleasantly surprised when a few good things really happen.

(Pressman and Wildavsky 1973:xii-xiii, reflecting on the lessons of the Economic Development Administration's employment programme for Oakland, California)

There is also massive fraud which, a House of Lords Committee has argued, is increasing and could account for 7-10 per cent of the total European Union (EU) budget, much of it from CAP. The basic strategems are quite simple and certainly well within the scope of any reasonably well-run criminal organization.

(Wyn Grant 1995:2, reviewing the limits to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP))


INTRODUCTION: IF IMPLEMENTATION WORKS-CLAP!

As is very evident from the rest of this volume, the EU policy process is a very productive process in terms of legislative output. For example, it has been estimated that 80 per cent of EC social and economic policy will soon be determined at the European level. Despite demands for the 'repatriation' of some existing European laws and for Euro-level deregulation, there is reason to believe that the process of integration is like any other process by which a corpus of public policy is developed; there is some kind of ratchet effect which makes it quite difficult to reverse public policies once they are in place.

However, this is not to suggest that there are not other ways of defeating the aims and objectives enshrined in EU policies should member states, implementing agencies and interest groups so wish. Public policies may be 'peace treaties' agreed between competing member states, interests and institutions at the time the policies are adopted, but the signatories to the peace treaties often find ways of not complying with what they have agreed. It is clear that some member states 'negotiate' knowing full well that they will be less than energetic at the implemention stage. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of these late-night peace treaties come 'unstitched' when they come to be implemented in fifteen different member states, all with different administrative structures, legal traditions, and cultural attitudes. Moreover, there are often extremely long time-lags between an EU decision to adopt a particular policy or programme and its translation into even national law, let alone translation into actual policy delivery. Even when a policy is in the form of a regulation, rather than a Directive (and, therefore, is directly applicable without the need

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