Adjusting to Europe: The Impact of the European Union on National Institutions and Policies

Adjusting to Europe: The Impact of the European Union on National Institutions and Policies

Adjusting to Europe: The Impact of the European Union on National Institutions and Policies

Adjusting to Europe: The Impact of the European Union on National Institutions and Policies

Synopsis

The European Union is paradoxical: it is not a state, yet it performs many traditional functions of the state. Its regulatory powers are immense but its redistributive functions are negligible; its decisions penetrate all aspects of economic and social life, yet Brussels has no local administration or tribunals, no controllers capable of guaranteeing the correct and faithful implementation of the regulations or objectives which frame European policies. Adjusting to Europe explores the means through which this paradox is confronted. It examines the nature and modalities of policy-making at Community level and discusses the implications of the specific nature of European institiutions for bargaining group mobilization and policy style. It then studies how the three major nation states have adjusted their policy processes and institutions to the European challenges. Finally, it considers the impact of community decisions in three areas: industrial, competition and social policy.

Excerpt

There is still considerable debate and conflict about the nature of the European Union (EU) and its future direction. One only has to reflect on the difficulties encountered in many member states in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty to realize that this particular phase of the European integration process was a ‘marketing disaster’, as one observer put it. Europe’s political elite had moved too far and too fast for the peoples of Europe. There is now a sense of gloom about the state of the EU and its economies. Conflict rather than consensus seems to be the norm, with serious divisions between member states and within member states, a growing sense of retreat into the defence of pure national interest and a reassertion of intergovernmentalism.

Yet the history of European integration has always moved in ‘fits and starts’, episodically moving between ‘Europhoria’ and ‘Eurosclerosis’. We, therefore, need to take a longer-term view. In so doing, it is apparent just how much integration has taken place, despite no basic agreement about such fundamental concepts such as federalism and subsidiarity. Somehow, Europe seems to muddle through and to create gradually a rather ‘productive’ (in the sense of legislative output) policy-making system. Whether one is a Euro-sceptic or Euroenthusiast, the fact is that there is an enormous corpus of European law. Even without monetary union and the further political integration that it would undoubtedly bring, Europeanization has had a major impact on the policy processes at the national level, on the behaviour of different policy actors, both public and private, and on the institutions of the member states. Even so, it would be silly to argue that national sovereignty has all but gone. The degree of Europeanization varies across sectors, and even in those policy areas where Europeanization has obviously gone very far the member states are still central actors and are deeply embedded in the Euro-level public process. Hence one of the most interesting questions today is how a balance is struck

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