How did the European Union (EU) shape Latvia’s formal institutions and policy? How has this influence varied across policy domains and over time? Furthermore, how has it shaped domestic politics? The state-of-the-art literature offers only partial answers to these questions, falling short of providing a broader perspective on the effects of Europeanization. EU influence on Latvian institutions and policy has been profound, going beyond the rather technical adoption of acquis and concerning highly contentious issues of domestic politics. The influence has varied in substance and extent over different integration phases, depending on policy agendas and conditionality mechanisms at hand. Assuming a two-dimensional political space, the EU notably pushed Latvia’s policy to the left—both on economic and cultural issue areas. If during the 1990s the EU forced Latvia to liberalize its language and citizenship laws, in the early 2000s it played a major role in building state institutions. During the crisis, the EU not only imposed austere fiscal targets but also found itself playing the role of a social advocate, as domestic authorities pushed fiscal stringency to the extreme. EU’s criticisms regarding Latvia’s social policy eventually contributed to a marked policy change. Furthermore, by shaping Latvia’s institutions and policy, the EU shaped Latvia’s politics as well, as local actors strategically used various EU issue agendas—notably, (anti)corruption—for their own political purposes. Put on the domestic political agenda by the EU (and other international actors) in the early 2000s, (anti)corruption became the second most polarizing issue/area after ethnicity for the decades to come.
Food policy is mostly linked to the ‘production and allocation of food’. However, food policy incorporates various dimensions, such as food safety and health, obesity, distribution, transportation, allocation, consumption, culture and traditions, design and promotion and many more. It also involves various institutions and actors and follows specific decision-making processes and rules within the EU multilevel governance. Food policy has been treated as a sub-compartment of agricultural policy. Despite the strong link between food policy and agriculture but also to policies on environment, energy, climate, the EU food policy has become a self-standing policy with its own actors, institutions, decision-making processes and policy instruments. The emergence of EU food policy responded to a series of events/crises in the 1990s that acted as drivers for policy change and triggered new ideas, norms and beliefs around food safety and health standards, food production and the environment. These developments enabled a new policy discourse that signifies the cognitive dimensions of a policy paradigm shift. They also created a critical juncture that led to a significant transfer of regulatory competences from the member states to EU, over time, particularly in relation to safety, labeling and consumer information, but also use of biotechnology, fraud, storage and transportation that mark the institutionalization of EU food policy.
Kees van Kersbergen and Bertjan Verbeek
Since the Maastricht Treaty (1993), subsidiarity has guided the political process surrounding the distribution of competences between administrative layers in the European Union (EU). The EU’s subsidiarity regime affects the politics and governance of the EU, because the notion of subsidiarity allows for continuous negotiation over its practical use. The constant battle over subsidiarity implies that the notion changes its meaning over time and alters the power relations between different actors within the EU. Since the Lisbon Treaty (2009), subsidiarity has mainly strengthened the position of member states at the expense of the Commission.