European Union Negotiations: Processes, Networks and Institutions

By Ole Elgström; Christer Jönsson | Go to book overview

2

Negotiations in networks

Christer Jönsson and Maria Strömvik


Introduction

The term multi-level governance is frequently used by specialists on the European Union to characterize the peculiarities of the EU policy process. The use of the term governance in the EU setting has grown out of the notorious difficulty of characterizing the European Union as a political entity in unequivocal and familiar terms. Descriptions in terms of either an unusually ambitious intergovernmental organization or a supranational state in the making fail to give an adequate and comprehensive picture of the Union. In fact, the term governance has been chosen by EU analysts in order to avoid associations with statehood. 'Government without statehood' is precisely the title of the concluding chapter of a much-used textbook (Wallace 1996).

The proliferation of the term 'governance' in the vernacular of both national and international politics, among scholars and practitioners alike, has not entailed conceptual precision. It is obvious, though, that governance is a broader notion than government. In fact, 'governance without government' (cf. Rosenau and Czempiel 1992) has become a common catchword. One way of understanding this phrase is to see governance systems as social institutions in terms of rules, roles and practices, and governments as organizations or material entities established to administer some, but far from all, governance systems (Young 1994: ix-x, 1997:4-5).

Efforts at defining governance are typically rather vague and inclusive, such as 'the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs' (Our Global Neighbourhood 1995:2); or 'the process whereby elements in society wield power and authority, and influence and enact policies and decisions concerning public life, and economic and social development' (Emmerij et al. 2001:188, quoting International Institute of Administrative Sciences). Similarly, EU scholars understand governance in terms of 'coordinating multiple players in a complex setting of mutual dependence' and 'the patterns that emerge from governing activities' among these actors (Kohler-Koch 1995:188). Governance is considered 'independent of the existence of a central authority and beyond the territorial congruence of those who govern with those who are subject to governance' (Jachtenfuchs and Kohler-Koch 1995:5).

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