Analyzing Everyday Politics in the EU

Analyzing Everyday Politics in the EU

Panel at the 2008 NIG work conference at the University of Twente

Provisional timetable

Thursday, 20 November 2008

10.30 – 11.00


11.00 – 11.15

Welcome by the dean/rector

11.15 – 12.00

Lecture on “Democracy in the Netherlands: An assessment” by Prof. Jacques Thomassen

12.30 – 13.30

Lunch in the faculty club

13.30 – 13.45

Start of panel session: Welcome and introduction

13.45 – 14.15

Paper 1: Costello (discussant: Toshkov)

14.15 – 14.45

Paper 2: Rasmussen & Warntjen (discussant: Steunenberg)

14.45 – 15.00

Coffee break

15.00 – 15.30

Paper 3: Dijkstra (discussant: Häge)

15.30 – 16.00

Paper 4: Wille (discussant: Rasmussen)

16.00 – 16.15

Coffee break

16.15 – 16.45

Paper 5: Steunenberg & Häge (discussant: Costello)

16.45 – 17.15

Paper 6: Warntjen (discussant: Dijkstra)

18.00 – 19.00


19.00 – 21.00

Dinner and awarding of the NIG postdoc price and the ‘Best PhD Supervisor’-award in the FC Twente stadium

Friday, 21 November 2008

9.30 – 10.00

Paper 7: Kaeding (discussant: van de Steeg)

10.00 – 10.30

Paper 8: Toshkov (discussant: Warntjen)

10.30 – 11.00

Coffee break

11.00 – 11.30

Paper 9: Fenger (discussant: Kaeding)

11.30 – 12.00

Paper 10: van de Steeg (discussant: Fenger)

12.00 – 12.30

Wrap-up of panel session and conclusions

13.00 – 14.00

Lunch at the Drienerburght

Collection of paper abstracts

Rory Costello

Partisan composition and bicameral relations in EU legislative politics

Is political conflict between the European Parliament and Council of Ministers shaped by the party-political composition of each institution? Several recent studies have compared the composition of these two legislative bodies over time. Due to the poor performance of government parties in European elections, the political ‘centre of gravity’ of the two institutions has often diverged on the left-right dimension. When parties of the right dominate in the Council, parties of the left tend to dominate in the EP, and vice versa. For this reason, it is often claimed that EU legislative politics operates under divided government.

This paper examines relationship between partisan composition and inter-institutional conflict. Using data on the preferences of the member states and the European Parliament in actual legislative negotiations, the paper analyses how changes in party composition over time affect relations between the institutions. The data covers a large number of legislative proposals negotiated in two separate periods, during which time the relative composition of the two institutions changed substantially. For the first period, 1999-2001, the centre of gravity in the Council was to the left of the Parliament; while for the second period, 2004-2005, the opposite was the case.

The findings strongly suggest that institutional interests create persistent divisions between the Parliament and Council that are relatively unaffected by changes in the composition of either chamber. Due to an overlap between the EU-integration and left-right dimensions, these differences exist across a wide spectrum of policy areas. Consequently, legislative decision-making in the EU is much less responsive to the electoral process than is often assumed.

Hylke Dijkstra

Éminence grise or outspoken NGO: The influence of the EU Council Secretariat

This article explains how the EU Council Secretariat exercises political influence in the first and second pillar. It is surprising that the Secretariat adopts quite different strategies in both pillars, given that its formal competences are so alike. The main argument is that the rationale behind the initial delegation of tasks to the Council Secretariat is pivotal in this respect. While the Council Secretariat in the first pillar was created to improve the efficiency of the decision-making process, in the second pillar it also constitutes – particularly in the field of security and defence – an expert bureaucracy. In terms of the principal-agent model this difference leads to other goal conflicts and informational asymmetries. Whereas in the first instance process interests and process expertise are central, in the second case the actual substance of policies also comes into play. Due to these different goal conflicts and informational asymmetries the Council Secretariat is forced to adopt other strategies.

It took scholars some fifty years before they dedicated a full article to the role of the Council Secretariat in the European Union policy-process; and despite some recent attention (e.g. Christiansen 2002; Beach 2004; Christiansen and Vanhoonacker 2008; Dijkstra 2008) the work of its 3000+ civil servants remains under-explored. At times it seemed that this is exactly the purpose of the Council Secretariat, which tries to protect its impartiality by deliberately staying outside the (academic) limelight. Instead of putting itself to the fore, it has preferred to be an éminence grise to the Presidency in the first pillar and to leave the talking to the country in the chair. By doing so, it has proven rather influential. Member States, which in the past ignored the Council Secretariat’s political and legal advice, have often suffered the consequences (e.g. Gray & Stubb 2001).

The Council Secretariat in the second pillar is, in contrast, not gun shy. Since the Amsterdam Treaty (1999), it has been the home of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); and Solana and his senior officials have been quite outspoken. One might even argue that with the relatively little resources at his disposal, using the media is his only means. In addition to making a contribution to the public debate, Solana and officials of the Council Secretariat are also actively taking the floor in the Council – at ministerial, ambassador and working group level.

What is so puzzling about the Council Secretariat’s behaviour in the first and second pillar it not its apparent Janus-face, but the fact that the formal powers entrusted to the Secretariat in the Treaties in both pillars are actually so alike. The Council Secretariat formally only assists the Presidency and the Council in the Common Market and in the CFSP. The question is thus why these limited formal powers transform via such different ways into informal influence during the decision-making phase in the Council. The main argument of this article is that while the functionalist rationale behind the Council Secretariat in the first pillar is to improve the efficiency of the decision-making process, in the second pillar it also constitutes, particularly in the field of security and defence, an expert bureaucracy. This leads to different goal conflicts and to other informational asymmetries (interests/expertise relating to the process vis-à-vis interests/expertise on the content and substance).

While acknowledging other perspectives, this article takes a rational choice institutionalist approach drawing extensively on the economic principal-agent model. Because the Council Secretariat is a ‘least-likely’ case of political influence (cf. Beach 2004) within the Council of Ministers, the effect of informational asymmetries can be identified without too much interference of other possible factors (such as formal competences). This article will commence with introducing the principal-agent model according to the economics and public administration disciplines. Subsequently it will discuss how officials in the Council Secretariat differently transform their limited formal power base into considerable informal political influence in both pillars. In conclusion this article will give an overview of the wider implications of these findings.

Menno Fenger

Multi-level lobbying in the European Union: The Impact of Trade Unions on the Working Time Directive

The Working Time Regulations case is one of the cases in which Euopean decision-making seems to be in a dead-lock. In December 2003, the European Commission started a revision of the Working Time Directive. The current Directive (2004/88) has to be revised, also because in two different cases in 2000 (SIMAP) and 2003 (Jaeger) the European Court has stated that rest hours ‘on duty’ also should be considered as working hours. This has lead to problems in several domains, including hospitals and fire patrol.

However, the revision of the directive is blocked by a strong disagreement between the member states. At the heart of this disagreement is the possibility of ‘opt out’. This is a measure which allows workers to agree to opt out of the 48-hour week. Employers in a number of states make use of the opt-out, but it is most widely used in the UK and Malta.

The European Commission is content to allow the opt-out to continue, though it has suggested measures that would make it harder for employers to press staff into working more than 48 hours against their will. However, some countries want the opt-out to be phased out, as does the European Parliament. Other states, in particular the UK, want it to continue. They argue that labor market flexibility helps reduce unemployment.

In this paper, we use the case of Working Time Regulations to analyze trade unions’ multi-level strategies and their impact. There’s at least three ways in which trade unions might try to influence the outcomes of the revision of the EU Working Time Directive: by trying to influence strategies of national government; by trying to co-operate with other national trade unions in order to influence their national governments; by operating on the European level.

In the current literature on European decision-making, the impact of interest groups and especially trade unions has received rather limited attention in comparison to other aspects of European decision making. This paper attempts to empirically map the efforts of Dutch trade unions on each of these three levels and tries to assess their impact on the process of policy formulation and the outcomes of the decision-making.

Michael Kaeding

The effectiveness of Lamfalussy: A four-level regulatory approach for the adoption and implementation of financial services regulation across EU Member States

The Lamfalussy process is a recently introduced approach to the development of financial service industry regulations across EU Member States. It consists of 11 regulations of which the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) is one of the most relevant. It will introduce, among others, a single market and regulatory regime for investment services across the 30 Member States of the European Economic Area (the 27 Member States of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein).

In this context, it is often argued that the Lamfalussy process provides several benefits over traditional lawmaking. Preparation of EU legislation affecting securities markets seem more transparent, with better involvement of external stakeholders and enhanced political cooperation between all the institutions. Experts agree that this would go hand in hand with a general boost in the quality of legislation on financial services and the acceleration of the legislative process (Schaub, 2005). The question, however, is whether the use of implementing measures will make it easier and faster to adapt Community legislation? Does the Lamfalussy process entail more-consistent interpretation and increased convergence in national supervisory practices?

First evidence indicate that Lamfalussy Directives are transposed ineffectively. The ‘Lamfalussy league tables’ on Member States’ success in meeting deadlines for writing into national law a series of securities Directives that were adopted as part of the Financial Services Action Plan launched in 1999 published by the European Commission show that 20 Member States did not fully implement the prospectus Directive 2003/71/EC before the deadline of 1 July 2005, which would disrupt the smooth introduction of the ‘single passport for issuers’, intended to make securities available to investors either through a public offer procedure or by admitting their shares to trading. Also it shows that 16 Member States did not yet fully implement the market abuse Directive (2003/6/EC) and its implementing measures for which the deadline was 12 October 2004.

This paper will assess this puzzle in detail by first showing that the EU faces a similar transposition problem in the financial services market than other regulatory policies. Differentiating between ‘first level’ and ‘second level’ Lamfalussy Directives, this study will then argue, however, that the problems are different in nature. Embedded in the current EU compliance literature the paper will then test quantitatively and qualitatively existing scholarly findings against a new set of Directives to address the underlying research questions of why Member States comply to different extent with this specific set of Directives that were adopted under increased involvement of external stakeholders and enhanced political cooperation between all the EU institutions.

Anne Rasmussen and Andreas Warntjen

Executive Involvement in Bicameral Decision-making: The Role of the European Commission and the US Presidency

The paper examines whether the claim in the literature that there is similarity between bicameral decision-making in the EU and the US still holds when executive involvement is controlled for. It examines whether the Commission and Presidency possess agendasetting and veto powers and the extent to which these powers can be used effectively. In the case of the Commission, its de jure monopoly on making legislative proposals has been interpreted in different ways by political scientists. Indeed, it is unclear which powers the Commission does possess de facto. In the paper we discuss the powers of the Commission drawing upon a comparison to the US case and show how the different interpretation would affect the predictions of the legislative outcome. Aggregate and case-level evidence reveal that the European Commission's right of initiative is weak and that it rarely finds itself in a situation where it would be in its interest to withdraw, or take it harder for the Council to adopt, proposals. In contrast, the US Presidency can often compensate for its lack of proposal power by acting as an informal agenda-setter or can use its power of veto to remove bills put on the agenda against its wishes. Due to differences in executive involvement, bicameral decision-making in the EU and the US may be less similar than the dominant view suggests.

Bernard Steunenberg and Frank Häge

The role of the committee system in the Council of the European Union

This paper analyzes the delegation of decision making on legislative proposals in the Council of the European Union. As recent empirical research indicates, a substantial number of proposals is decided by the working parties in the Council or Coreper and is not discussed by the ministers themselves. On the one hand, this operating procedure seems to rely on strong coordination between the representing civil servants in the working parties and their minister. On the other hand, and within the context of this principal-agent relationship, deviations in preferences will immediately translate into agency costs, which reduce the attractiveness of this arrangement. The question therefore is why ministers extensively use this structure and rely so much on expert decision making. This paper explores possible reasons for this practice by presenting a model of the Council's internal decision making process. A key feature of our model is the need to obtain and use information on the various ways in which a policy can be formulated.

Dimiter Toshkov

Estimating the Legislative Output of the European Union

How much legislation has the EU produced over the years? What are the trends in the volume and composition of EU legislation during the last decades? How can we account for the varying productivity of the EU over the years? Despite the growing interest in EU decision-making, we still know relatively little about these questions. The proposed paper will present new, and more reliable, estimations of the volume and composition of EU legislation for the period 1962-2007. The data, collected from Eurolex and Prelex, will provide an overview of the general development of EU legislative output, as well as a detailed exploration of the use of the most important EU legislative instrument – the directive. Addressing the determinants of legislative productivity, the paper will look into the relationship between legislative output and the frequency of meetings of the Council working groups and measures of political preference divergence.

Andreas Warntjen

The Council Presidency and Legislative Leadership: The Case of Occupational Health and Safety

Many international institutions feature a leadership office to organize its decision-making process. In the case of the Council of the European Union, the rotating Council Presidency exercises the role of a process manager and enjoys proposal power. This function might allow the Presidency to steer the Council’s agenda according to its domestic priorities. Elsewhere, I have provided evidence for this effect in the field of environmental policy using a statistical large-n research design. In this paper, I scrutinize the causal mechanism in more detail with the use of a case study. I demonstrate that the German Council Presidency in 1999 employed issue subtraction to increase the chances of occupational health and safety legislation to pass through the needle’s eye of the Council. The paper links this finding to the general literature on international negotiation and negotiation analysis. I also discuss the normative ramifications of this effect and the prospective changes in the powers of the Presidency due to enlargement.

Marianne van de Steeg

Accounting to national parliaments on European Summits

One of the functions of a parliament in democratic theory is to hold those in power to account. European politics makes this more difficult. The European Council is accountable as a collective to the European Parliament via its Presidency. However, the European Parliament is formally in a weak position to hold the European Council to account. Instead, national parliaments are formally well equipped with rights and sanction mechanisms. The European national parliaments may call their Head of Government to account in a public session on the decisions made during the previous European Council. In this paper, I will investigate whether, in practice, the Dutch parliament is able to hold the Dutch representative in the European Council to account on his actions at the European Summits. Possibly, I will expand this investigation to the Spanish or the Danish parliament.

Anchrit Wille

The Politics of Information and Advice: The Commissioner’s Cabinets

Like several national ministers in Europe, each European Commissioner has its own political secretariat or private office. These cabinets of personally appointed officials (trustees hired and fired by the Commissioner), are organisationally separate from the administrative services. The central functions of the cabinets in the European Commission are broadly the same as the classic on of their national counterparts: to be the political eyes and ears of their boss; to provide an additional source of, and channel for, policy advice, to co-ordinate policy development , and to monitor the work of the services. Cabinets occupy extremely important positions in the Commission’s political-bureaucratic system. Moreover, the role and success of Commissioners is often attributed to that of their cabinets. Cabinets are often thought to counterbalance a commissioner’s shortcomings and they can be used by commissioners to strengthen their own performance in areas where they might otherwise be weak.

In the past, cabinets functioned as national enclaves; the nationality of the Head of Cabinet directly reflected the nationality of the leading Commissioner (Egeberg 2003: 139) and around half of the cabinets were directly recruited from national administrations (Hooghe 2001: 187). Under the Prodi Commission the demography of cabinets changed, however, in crucial respects. In this paper I intend to examine how the organization of information and advice in the cabinets has changed after the internal administrative reforms in the European Commission. The paper describes how new rules have affected the composition of cabinets; and focuses on the impact of the new composition on the operation of the cabinets. The questions I intend to answer are: have the reforms affected the organization of information and advice in the cabinets? Have cabinets become more politicized or professionalized? And what are the implications for the policy making process in the Commission?