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Article

The Constitutional Treaty, which attempted to establish a constitution for Europe, never went into force because of “no” votes in referendums in France and the Netherlands. It did not involve far-reaching changes in what the European Union does, nor did it revolutionize how the institutions work. The pillar structure of the existing treaties was replaced with a single Union, but without fundamentally changing how foreign, security and defense policies were decided. A “foreign minister” was created that merged the roles of High Representative in the Council and Commissioner for External Affairs, and the European Council was established as a separate, treaty-based institution. A simple double majority qualified majority voting (QMV) procedure was introduced in the Council, and the use of QMV was extended to many more policy areas. Given these modest reforms, what was particularly remarkable about the Constitutional Treaty was how it was negotiated. In contrast to previous major treaty reforms, the Constitutional Treaty was prepared by a more inclusive, parliament-like convention that was composed of representatives from national parliaments, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and member state governments. Although the European Convention was followed by a more traditional intergovernmental conference (IGC), the draft produced by the Convention surprisingly formed the status quo during the IGC. Therefore, the use of the Convention method to prepare treaty reforms sparked considerable interest among scholars who have explored how the change impacted who won and lost in the negotiations, and what types of bargaining strategies were most effective.

Article

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the Treaty on Stability, Coordination, and Governance, often referred to as the Fiscal Compact, constitute two of the main European Union (EU) instruments for dealing with the eurozone crisis. Both had to be established as intergovernmental agreements outside of, but parallel to, the EU’s legal framework. However, the instruments were closely linked to the European Community framework and made extensive use of Community institutions. The ESM was originally set up as a loan facility to Eurozone countries facing problems financing their debt, but it became much bigger in size and scope than originally envisioned by the member states. The Fiscal Compact, on the other hand, can be considered as the fiscal counterpart to the ESM. It received a lot of attention in the press and academia, but it was first and foremost required as a political signal that would allow further enhancements of the ESM. The two instruments are often employed in the literature as part of a continuing juxtaposition of intergovernmentalist and supranationalist methods or approaches. However, from a theoretical perspective, the ESM and Fiscal Compact reflect an acknowledgment of new realities in European integration, in which intergovernmental actors and action channels play a more prominent role in decision making, but this does not necessarily come at the expense of the supranational actors. The instruments exemplify the rise of the European Council’s centered governance for dealing with major reforms. The processes of setting up the ESM and Fiscal Compact were undoubtedly political and top-down, but they were less driven and controlled by the big member states than the label ‘intergovernmental’ implies.

Article

Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Natascha Zaun

Since the crisis of 2015/2016, asylum has become the focus of attention in the European Union (EU). The right to seek refuge raises issues of sovereignty and control of the territory; hence, with the gradual integration of European member states into a single area free of internal borders, there has been a functional pressure to harmonize domestic asylum policies. However, this process of integration continues to be highly contested on two main axes: the extent of harmonization (how much should the EU do in the area of asylum) and the content of the policies (should the emphasis lie on territorial security or individual rights). The tension between this “core state power” status and the EU’s international obligations has shaped both policy developments and academic debates since the emergence of asylum as an EU policy field in the mid-1990s. The integration of asylum policies is intimately linked to the emergence of Schengen as a borderless zone. Indeed, the idea that, in a Europe without borders, member states cannot control the flow of migrants led national governments to find common rules on ascribing responsibility for international protection claims. The rules agreed in the Dublin Convention of 1990 have become the core pillar that structures the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This system aims to harmonize the definition of a refugee and the procedures and rights that need to be followed when considering asylum requests, as well as the conditions for receiving asylum seekers (e.g., housing, access to healthcare, and the job market). This process of harmonization has not been uncontested: while the first legislative phase (2001–2005) remained highly intergovernmental and was characterized by little progress being made in the approximation of domestic asylum systems, the second phase (2008–2013) showed an increased reluctance of member states to strengthen the powers of the EU in this field. As a result, the CEAS has been epitomized by faulty implementation and weak approximation—especially among those member states that did not have strong asylum systems in place before integration began. These gaps have left the CEAS in a dangerous position, since they have created incentives for those who benefit the least from EU cooperation to bypass their obligations. There, the principles underpinning the Dublin regime have been at the core of the functional crises that have recurrently emerged in the EU. The so-called “asylum crisis” has shown the weaknesses of the CEAS as well as the incapacity of member states to reform the system and find a solution that addresses the current imbalances. The main solutions have come via externalization, whereby the EU has sought to strengthen the responsibility of third countries like Turkey and Libya. These trends have also been the focus of attention in this highly interdisciplinary field. Debates have generally concentrated on either the internal or the external dimension of EU policy-making. When it comes to the internal dimension, early scholarship centered on the process of integration and the development of asylum into a new policy field. They showed how the major drivers of integration followed functional logics of spillover from the single market and Schengen—but that the nature of this policy area called for different political dynamics. This process remained highly intergovernmental until the early 2000s, which gave interior ministers the power to escape domestic constraints (e.g., civil society, national parliaments, and courts) and shape EU policies in relative isolation. This does not mean, however, that this intergovernmental process was uncontentious. Indeed, it has been shown how the core principles of EU asylum respond to a public goods logic, whereby member states try to shift their responsibility for asylum seekers away from their territory and onto that of their neighbors. Although the idea of “burden-sharing” (and hence a generalized negative perception of asylum) is shared by most member states, the processes of uploading and downloading policies between the domestic and the EU level have been more complicated than just building a “Fortress Europe.” Among those who were traditional recipients of asylum seekers and had strong asylum systems, there has been a clear game of regulatory competition that has sometimes led to a race to the bottom. In comparison, those that had no experience with international protection and lacked a strong asylum system have generally struggled to adapt to EU standards, which has reinforced the imbalances and weaknesses of the Dublin regime. Given these dynamics, most scholars expected the shift to a fully supranational decision-making process to produce far-reaching policy changes and have a rights-enhancing effect. The outcomes have not always fulfilled expectations, which underlines the importance of opening up the black box of preference formation in the EU institutions and member states. What scholars do agree on is that policy outputs on the EU level have often failed to materialize into policy outcomes on the domestic level, which has led to processes of informal adaptation and the strengthening of EU operational agencies like Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). In addition, these internal failures have pushed the EU to externalize border controls as well as push the responsibility for international protection toward third countries. There has been a clear case of policy diffusion toward neighboring countries, but also an increased dynamic of policy convergence among hosting countries like Australia and the USA. These policies tend to emphasize exclusionary practices, notably extraterritorial processing and border control—leading to major questions about the survival of asylum as an international human right in the years to come. These trends show that asylum continues to be a highly contested EU policy both in its internal and external dimensions. We need, therefore, to look more closely at the impact of polarization and politicization on EU policy-making as well as on how they might affect the role played by the EU and its member states in global debates about migration and the right to seek asylum.

Article

The observer´s first impression of the European Council is one of tired European Union (EU) leaders who, after dramatic late-night sessions, try to explain ambiguous compromises on key issues of European policies to their media audiences. From a researcher’s perspective, however, there are still many blank areas—a matter resulting from the various obstacles of analyzing this EU institution. The relevance of the European Council’s decisions has driven research on its agenda formation, decision-making and internal dynamics, its legal status and democratic legitimacy. Yet research on the European Council can be cumbersome and methodologically demanding due to the lack of confirmed empirical evidence: meetings of the European Council are consultations behind closed doors and the dense network of mutual information difficult to access. The conclusions are only a concentrate of the discussions held within. It is furthermore a challenge to explain the causal links between the diplomatic language of the conclusions and the real impact these measures have on EU politics. Nevertheless, the European Council is a vivid object of investigation. Since its creation in 1974, the European Council has undergone structural and formal changes: from the increase to up to 28 heads of state or government, to the establishment of a permanent president and the formal inclusion in the institutional setup of the EU in the Lisbon Treaty. From the first “summits” onwards, the Lisbon Treaty had a crucial role in the development of the EU system and the formulation of the underlying treaties. In crisis, it was often the only constellation able to provide consensual and thus effective proposals. Meanwhile, the scope of its activities has been enlarged toward a state-like agenda. It now covers topics at the very heart of national sovereignty. To these issues dealing with core state powers belong economic governance, migration policy, justice and home affairs, and external action, including security policy. Academic controversies about this cornerstone of the Union derive from intergovernmental or quasi-federalist assessments of the institution or from the powers and limitations of “summits” in general and in relation to other EU institutions. Some argue that the European Council shifts the institutional balance toward intergovernmentalist structures. Others stress the European Council’s role in transferring competences to supranationalist institutions. Further debates focus on whether the European Council has (successfully) overtaken the role of a “crisis manager,” or how its embeddedness in the EU institutional architecture could be enhanced, especially vis-à-vis the Council and toward a constructive and balanced relationship with the EP, in future treaty revisions. Analyses of power and of the role of institutions—especially of a key institution as the European Council—are crucial issues of social sciences. Research projects on this highly interesting EU institution will have to assess which methods are adequate: from studying the treaty provisions, formalized agreements and conclusions, to observing its activities as well as tracing external contexts and the internal constellations of the European Council, to evaluating information considered as “anecdotal evidence” from interviews, biographies, and speeches from the few members of this institution.

Article

Andrew Moravcsik

Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) is the contemporary “baseline” social scientific and historiographic theory of regional integration—especially as regards the European Union. It rests on three basic assumptions, which in turn support a three-stage theoretical model of integration and the elaboration of numerous distinctive causal mechanisms. Considerable historical and social scientific evidence supports the LI view, but room also remains for scholars to extend and elaborate its framework in promising ways. Three prominent criticisms of LI exist. Some scholars of “administrative politics” charge that it applies only to treaty-amending decisions and other rare circumstances. “Historical institutionalists” charge that it overlooks endogenous feedback from previous decisions. “Post-functionalists” and “constructivists” revive discredited claims from the 1960s that functional theories neglect the central role of identity claims and ideology in explaining national interests. While each criticism contains some truth, LI possesses rich theoretical resources with which to address them fruitfully and musters compelling evidence to support its empirical claims. This confirms LI’s preeminent role in scholarly debates and suggests a soberly optimistic future for European and regional integration.

Article

The literature on multi-level governance (MLG) and the field of the administrative sciences and public administration (PA) can be fruitfully integrated in order to generate knowledge about “the administrative dimension of MLG.” MLG may be defined by Piattoni as “the simultaneous activation of governmental and non-governmental actors at various jurisdictional levels” and perspectives derived from MLG may be applied to a wide set of issues spanning from political mobilization (politics), to policymaking (policy), to state restructuring (polity). It is along each of these sets of issues that it is possible to delineate the contribution that the field of PA can provide to the development of MLG. To MLG as political mobilization, the PA literature brings insights about participatory approaches and collaborative governance. To MLG as policy in multi-level settings, the PA literature brings insights about the functioning of multi-level administration and the role of a multi-level bureaucracy in policymaking processes occurring in compound political systems; the PA literature also contributes insights on public accountability in systems where decision responsibility is blurred, and issues of legitimacy arise. To MLG as polity restructuring, the PA literature offers insights on the administrative dimension of polity restructuring processes, as well as on the dynamics of systemic change and the change management of public governance arrangements. The study of MLG may benefit from drawing from a range of conceptual tools and models developed in the field of PA. Complementarily, PA as an interdisciplinary field of scholarship may benefit from the perspective of MLG, which provides it with a platform to expand the application of concepts like those of collaborative governance; bureaucratic influence on policymaking; public accountability in multi-actor, multi-level settings; or systemic-level change management. In this sense, the generation of knowledge about the administrative dimension of MLG is an addition to both MLG studies and to the field of PA.

Article

Intergovernmental relations in Latin America present a varied sample of both institutional determinants and actual dynamics. Constitutional structures regulate whether countries have a federal or a unitary system of territorial distribution of power and stipulate the territorial levels of government. Thus, constitutions structure the number of vertical and horizontal intergovernmental relations. Actual dynamics, however, depend on policy prerogatives that establish subnational authority vis-à-vis the national administration. These prerogatives, usually understood in terms of power, responsibilities, and resources, shape the territorial balance of power within a country. Power, responsibilities, and resources can be combined to apprehend the degree of authority in the hands of regional governments. Such authority is analytically organized into two dimensions: the regional power of self-rule and the power to share rule with national decision makers. This distinction helps to explain that the trend toward increasing regional authority is mostly a product of decentralization and devolution politics that have enhanced self-rule, rather than reforms that advance the shared rule dimension. Nevertheless, neither constitutional structures nor new regional policy prerogatives are the only determinants of the dynamics of intergovernmental relations. Informal institutions, such as subnational coalitions and local political clientelism, are particularly relevant to understanding the actual balance of power between national and subnational governments and among subnational arenas.