The Political system of the European Union
The focus of this book is not on the history and the creation of the EU. The main aim of the book is to understand and explain how the EU works today. It is about the functioning of the European institutions, the foreign policy of the EU, the democratic deficit, the single market etc. Hix and Hoyland attempt to understand these subjects by focusing on a series of mid-level explanations of the main processes that are common to all political systems (for example: public opinion, interest-group mobilization, legislative bargaining). The main argument of this book is ‘to help us understand how the EU works, we should use the tools, methods and mid-range theories from the general study of government, politics and policy-making’. So Hix and Hoyland do not focus on a general theory of how political systems work, but the analyses is more on the mid-level explanations. Chapter 1 is about the basic assumptions of political science and discusses how these assumptions are applied in the two main theories of the EU politics.
However the EU is not a traditional constitution in the traditional meaning of this term, they do have a constitutional structure; the EU treaty and the practices and norms that have evolved around how the EU works. This structure gives a clear division of the policy competences and institutional powers. We can distinguish the EU policy in five main types:
Regulatory: Rules on the free movement of goods, persons and capital in the single market and involve the harmonization of many national production standards.
Interior: Rules to extend and protect the economic, political and social rights of the EU citizens and include common asylum and immigration policies, police and judicial cooperation and the provisions for EU citizenship.
Expenditure: Rules on the expenditures of the EU. This involves the EU budget, the Common Agricultural Policy, R&D policies etc.
Foreign: Rules that attempt to ensure that the EU speaks with a single voice. It also includes rules on trade policies, external economic relations the CFSP and the ESDP.
Macroeconomic: Policies who are pursued in the EMU. The most important means are the determination of the interest rate and the money supply by the ECB. The council makes policy on national tax and employment policies.
The EU level has exclusive responsibility for the single market, the monetary policies of the member states of the Monetary Union, the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Then there are a lot of policy areas where the EU and member states have ‘shared competences’ and in some areas there are ‘coordinated competences’. The member states coordinate their domestic policies at the EU level because of the effects on each other of conducting separate policies. And there are policy areas where the member states have ‘exclusive competences’. For a list of examples see box 1.2. In box 1.3 there is a clear overview of the separation of powers between the EU institutions.
Off course it is important that the inhabitants of the EU can influence this kind of policies. They can influence through two main types of intermediary associations. The first one is through the political parties. Political parties are the central political organizations in every modern democratic system. The political parties in Europe are elected by the people and have the task to represent those people at the EU level. This can be done by national parties or by the ‘political groups’ in the European Parliament. These parties pursue to have influence in all the European institutions. The second one is interest groups. Interest groups are voluntary associations of individual citizens, who aim to promote or protect the interests of their members in the political process. Interest groups can have influence on all the European institutions in various ways. The two most common ones are lobbying en funding political parties. When a lobby group serves a public case, sometimes it gets funded itself by the European Commission.
Hix and Hoyland argue the quasi-constitutional policy and institutional architecture of the EU is highly stable. Their main argument is that the degree of policy integrations equals the extend of supranational decision-making, so there is no disequilibria between those (see figure 1.1). Every time the EU embarked a new set of treaty reforms, there were big expectations about the progression in the process of European integration, but in practice this expectations always seemed to be too high. So every new treaty was less ambitious than the previous one, also because the EU got closer towards a ‘constitutional equilibrium’. There is no big desire by the member states to change the institutional framework of the EU. As a result, it’s likely that the focus of the EU will change in the next decade. It probably will shift from treaty reform to what can be done within the established institutional and policy framework.
It is hard to conceptualise the EU, it’s neither a state nor a federation. Almond and Easton developed a formal framework for defining, conceptualising and analysing ‘a political system’. This political system has four main characteristics and the EU fits quite well to all of them. The four characteristics are:
There is a stable and clearly defined set of institutions for collective decision-making and a set of rules governing relations between and within these institutions. The degree of institutional stability and complexity in the EU is far greater than in any other international regime.
Citizens seek to realize their political desires through the political system directly or through intermediary organizations. There are a lot of possibilities within the structure of the EU to get access through the system. And an increasing number of people and groups attempt to do so and make demands.
Collective decisions in the political system have a significant impact on the distribution of economic resources and the allocation of values across the whole system. The EU decisions are very wide ranging and are highly significant.
There is continuous interaction between these political inputs and outputs; a demand goes into the system, result in policy, there is feedback on the policy and new demands are produced. EU business is conducted in multiple settings on virtually every day of the year and has a lot off possibilities for interaction between inputs and outputs.
In sum the EU political system is highly decentralized, is based on the voluntary commitment of the member states and its citizens, and relies on sub-organizations to administer coercion and other forms of state power. In this system no state is strong enough to dominate the EU.
For understanding the EU politics there are two broad theoretical frameworks for understanding EU politics; intergovernmentalism and supranational politics.
Intergovernmentalism is a framework whereby the politics are dominated by the member states, the big ones in particular. These member states have clear preferences about what they want to achieve at a higher level. One of the main propositions of this framework is that the member states are very careful in what they delegate to institutions that are functioning on the union level. Delegations to these institutions only occur to further the collective interests of the governments. Another important propositions is that every member state needs to gain more than it will lose from the process of European integration and EU politics. When every state is just focusing on their own interests, it will never sign a treaty or delegate something to a higher level when the disadvantages are bigger than the advantages.
The supranational politics approach states that the power of a union should not be in hands of the member states, but it should be in hands of the union itself. The book gives three key interrelated reasons why the member states are not all powerful. First, supranational institutions are not passive agents of the member states, but they have their own institutional interests, policy preferences and resources and powers. Second, policy outcomes are not always predictable for member states because of the rules of the game at the union level.
Third, the positions and the nature of the bargaining space of the member states can vary issue by issue. So this argues that there can be unintended consequences, so the intentions of the member states are not equal to policy outcomes. A disadvantage of supranationalism is the ‘democratic deficit’ than can occur. In an intergovernmental framework the member states are more influential and states are relatively representative. Hix and Hoyland don’t take a position in this debate; they just emphasize the importance of the awareness of the existence of these theories. It helps to explain and understand the political system of the EU.
Voor toegang tot deze pagina kan je inloggen
Inloggen Word JoHo donateur
Online toegang tot alle pagina's sluit een abonnement af
Upgraden naar abonnement I naar abonnement II
Inloggen als donateur of abonnee
Om online toegang te krijgen kun je JoHo donateur worden en een (service) abonnement afsluiten
Vervolgens ontvang je de link naar je online account aan en heb je online toegang
Lees hieronder meer over JoHo donateur en abonnee worden
Ben je al JoHo donateur? maar heb je geen toegang? Lees dan hier meer
Korte Advieswijzer 'JoHo donateur worden & service-abonnement afsluiten':
JoHo donateur + service-abonnement I
JoHo donateur met service-abonnement II
JoHo donateur met service-abonnement III
JoHo donateur met doorlopende reisverzekering
Sluit je via JoHo een jaarlijks doorlopende verzekering af dan kan je gedurende de looptijd van je verzekering gebruik maken van de voordelen van service-abonnement III: hoge kortingen + volledig online toegang + alle extra services. Lees meer.
Abonnementen-advieswijzers voor JoHo services:
Abonnementen-advieswijzers voor JoHo services
Steun JoHo door donateur te worden en steun jezelf door ook een abonnement af te sluiten
My JoHo membership
Save for next login
Join JoHo JoHo donateur
upgrade naar abonnement I
upgrade naar abonnement II
To my bundles & lists
Hogan Lovells behoort tot de grootste internationale advocatenkantoren ter wereld en zoekt nieuw talent!
Ontmoet je nieuwe werkgever, volg carrièregerichte workshops en laat je cv checken
Een trefpunt voor emigranten, expats, werkzoekenden en ondernemers om te informeren en te oriënteren.
Word nu abonnee van OneWorld!
10 x per jaar een Magazine over mondiaal denken & groen doen
Stagelopen,vrijwilligerswerk of tussen'jaar' op Curaçao?
Leer meer van juridische, bedrijfskundige of bijvoorbeeld medische werkzaamheden
Afhalen & Aanwezigheid
Aanvullingen,Tips & Opmerkingen? Neem contact op
Zoeken & Menu's
Events & Open dagen
Bekijk de hele agenda
My World of JoHo