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Article

The Merger Treaty: Creating a Single Commission and Council of the European Communities  

Finn Laursen

The Merger Treaty was the first reform of the founding treaties of the European Communities. It was signed by the Member States of the Communities in 1965 and entered into force in 1967. It created a single “executive” by merging the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the Commission of the European Economic Community (EEC), and the Commission of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). It also formally merged the Councils (of ministers) into one. It did not merge the founding Paris and Rome Treaties, nor the three Communities as such. It was thus a relatively limited reform. The main argument used in support of the merger was one of efficiency and better coordination. The three Communities had overlapping competences, for instance in the fields of energy, transport, competition, and social policy, so it was felt that better coordination was needed. Politically the main difficulty was convincing President Charles de Gaulle of France to support the merger, advocated by the “executives” themselves, the Parliamentary Assembly, and the five Member States other than France.

Article

Intergovernmental Conference: Three Case Studies of EC/EU Institution Building  

Běla Plechanovová

Intergovernmental conference (IGC) within the European integration context is a vehicle for institutional change. Based on the majority decision in the Council, the representatives of member states’ governments convene to debate proposals for amendments to the founding treaties of the European Union (EU) and make decisions on the agreed changes, which are then subject to the ratification process in the member countries according to their constitutional requirements. This procedure was used for almost all treaty revisions until the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007 changed the rules. An ordinary revision procedure was introduced that assumes a role for the Convention to draft changes to the treaties, while keeping the IGC as a next step in the process. A simplified revision procedure was introduced for making adjustments to the internal policies and actions of the EU according to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, thus replacing the IGC by a unanimous decision of the European Council. The Merger Treaty of 1965, the Single European Act in 1986, and the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 represent distinct steps in shaping the perception of the role of the IGC as an institution in the political process within the European Communities and the EU.

Article

Applying, Enforcing, and Implementing European Union Rules  

Gerda Falkner

Making decisions is a complex and often problem-ridden process in a union of almost 30 member states. Most political science research hence discusses aspects of either decision-making or contents of specific EU policies. However, intricacies do not end when the governments and the European Parliament come to an agreement about, for example, regulative standards in a given policy. In actual fact, it is all but clear that the rules decided on the top layer of the European multi-level system will be implemented on the lower levels, ranging from the central governments of member states down to local communities. Multi-facetted issues related to the actual practice of implementing EU rules, and the Commission’s tough job in controlling this compound process, need to be addressed, while also evaluating the social science coverage of the topic. Research has a strong bias toward looking into the early phases of the implementation of EU law as opposed to the later ones, a trend which has only somewhat softened in the “new school” of relevant studies. A hardly researched but increasingly relevant factor in non-compliance with EU law is unwillingness by national governments. Therefore, it is important to consider the state of the rule of law in several member states and democratic backsliding—both essential for a healthy European integration process.

Article

The European Commission  

Hussein Kassim

Novel in both design and function, the European Commission occupies a central position in the political system of the European Union (EU). Compared to other international administrations in other international organizations, its responsibilities are extensive. The Commission is the principal source of EU legislative initiatives. It manages EU policy and processes, monitors the implementation of EU law, and negotiates trade agreements on the EU’s behalf. Though often decried as an “unelected bureaucracy,” the Commission is in fact a hybrid body. Whereas the services of the Commission form a permanent administration, the College, headed by the Commission president, is political. Members of the College, including the president, are appointed by the governments of the member states and elected by the European Parliament every five years, following popular elections to the latter body. The internal functioning of the Commission has attracted considerable interest, particularly among scholars of public administration and comparative politics. With respect to the Commission’s functioning within the wider EU system, the main debates relate to the role of the institution in the EU’s development; the extent of its influence over policy; its executive responsibilities and interaction with agencies at EU and national levels; and, in the context of a wider discussion of the EU’s democratic credentials, the Commission’s accountability. Few dispute the Commission importance, but there is considerable disagreement on how the Commission’s role in integration should be theorized and how the Commission as a body should be conceptualized.

Article

The European Union’s Community Method: Foundations and Evolution  

Youri Devuyst

The objective of the Community method is to ensure that, in the making, implementing, and enforcing of European Union law and policy, (a) the general European interest is safeguarded by the independent European Commission, which is responsible for proposing new EU legislation; (b) democratic representation of the people and the Member States takes place at the level of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which together form the EU’s legislature; and (c) judicial control is secured by the European Court of Justice. The article traces the historical origins and evolution of the Community method and assesses its continuing relevance against the background of alternative ways of decision making and coordination such as “intense transgovernmentalism” or “deliberative intergovernmentalism,” in which the European Council plays the leading role.

Article

Comitology: Controlling Everyday Rule-Making in the European Union  

Jens Blom-Hansen

Rules issued by the European Commission, based on powers delegated by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, constitute the vast majority of all EU rules. They regulate the daily operation of common policies in all areas. Because the devil is often in the details, Commission rules are tightly controlled by the member states. This traditionally takes place in the so-called comitology system, which is a system of 200–300 member state committees set up to control and approve draft Commission rules. Comitology dates back to the early 1960s, when the Common Agricultural Policy was introduced. The institutional setup of the comitology system is a four-tiered structure composed of Treaty rules, framework rules, daily legislation, and the formal and informal working practices in the individual comitology committees. The Treaty of Lisbon gave the comitology system a major overhaul and introduced new types of Commission rules, delegated acts, and implementing acts. Research on comitology has focused on the purpose and design of the system and its daily workings. Relevant research questions for future studies include the legislative choice between delegated and implementing acts, the daily workings of the comitology committees, lobbying of comitology committees by interest groups, introduction of comitology through the back door in the delegated acts system, and the relationship between comitology and the new rule-making role of European agencies.

Article

Budgetary Treaties and European Union Politics  

Finn Laursen

In Europe, two budgetary treaties were adopted in 1970 and 1975, respectively. They changed the budgetary procedures on the founding treaties of the European Communities (EC). The main reason was the introduction of the concept of “own resources” in 1970 to replace national financial contributions. It was decided that customs duties, agricultural levies, and a certain percentage of the value-added tax (VAT) in the Member States should go to the EC budget. Since that would remove the budget control of the national parliaments, it was argued that the European Parliament should have budgetary powers. The argument was especially developed by the European Parliament. The Member States eventually accepted the argument, but with some hesitation, so in the end the Parliament got less than it demanded. The Member States focused on control and the Parliament focused on legitimacy. The Commission fought for its own prerogatives. Apart from empowering the European Parliament, the second budgetary treaty in 1975 also created the European Court of Auditors. And prior to the signing of the treaty, the institutions (Commission, Council, and Parliament) had also agreed to introduce a conciliation procedure as a part of the budgetary process. This was done by an inter-institutional agreement outside the new treaty. Tracing the processes of adopting the two treaties shows that there was a great deal of inter-institutional bargaining, but also inter-governmental bargaining within the Council of Ministers, where France arguably was the “laggard” in 1970, joined by Denmark in 1975, after the first enlargement in 1973. The United Kingdom, preoccupied with its renegotiation of membership and a referendum in June 1975, had a relatively low profile in the negotiations. Scholars have debated the explanatory power of the liberal intergovernmental approach (with emphasis on the role of the Member States), contrasting it with some institutionalist approach considered better suited to explaining these treaty reforms. Leading scholars have especially applied sociological and historical institutionalism.

Article

Key Actors in the Management of Crises: European Union  

Arya Honarmand and Mark Rhinard

In Europe, the management of severe, cross-border crises is shared increasingly among actors and institutions at local, national, and supranational governance levels. The supranational political system of the European Union (EU) allows for substantial delegation of collective powers for public policymaking—and that delegation extends to crisis-management-related policies. Those policies and the crisis management “capacities” they lead to, however, are diverse and fragmented. They span the EU’s institutions, cover multiple sectors, and reflect different degrees of EU legal competence. The European Commission and its agencies house and manage most crisis-related policies, while the Council of Ministers of the European Union has its own capacities and provides a degree of political direction. EU agencies, and the European External Action Service (since 2010), contain yet more crisis-management-related capacities. These developments have grown mainly through crisis-driven expansion, albeit in an incremental and dispersed way, followed by consolidation. Scholars from the fields of international relations, public administration, and security studies have been slow to identify these developments. New research is needed on the subtle dynamics driving policy growth, the effectiveness and efficiency of these arrangements, and the comparative dimension with other regional crisis management systems in the world.

Article

The Nice Treaty: Reforming European Union Institutions in Anticipation of Eastern Enlargements  

Finn Laursen

The Nice Treaty negotiated during the year 2000, signed in 2001 and in force from 2003, focused on institutional changes considered necessary, especially by the larger member states, for the anticipated large enlargement of the European Union with several central and eastern European countries. Efforts to adopt such changes in the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations in 1996–1997 had failed. The Nice Treaty therefore dealt with what was known as the “Amsterdam leftovers,” namely size and composition of the European Commission, reweighting of votes in the Council of Ministers, and increased use of qualified majority voting in the Council. Concerning the reweighting of votes the intergovernmental conference agreed to increase the number of votes per member state, but the larger member states got a relatively larger increase that the smaller member states. This should make it more difficult for the smaller member states to dominate in the future, something feared by the larger states. Concerning the Commission, it was decided that each member state would nominate one commissioner in the future from January 1, 2005. When the membership of the union reached 27 the size would have to be reduced. How much and how would be decided later. Concerning the use of qualified majority voting the decision was to extend the use to some policy areas from the entry into force of the new treaty and for some policy areas considered more controversial the extension would take place later. For the most controversial areas no extension to qualified majority voting was considered. During the intergovernmental conference, which negotiated the new treaty, the topic of “enhanced cooperation” was added. Most of these topics were quite controversial, and afterward there was a feeling that the treaty did not adequately deal with all the issues. This in turn led to further efforts to improve the institutions, first in the failed Constitutional Treaty (2004) and eventually in the successful Lisbon Treaty (2007).

Article

Public Administration, Turbulence, and the European Union  

Jarle Trondal

In a multilevel governance system such as the European Union (EU) policy processes at one level may create challenges and dilemmas at lower levels. Multilevel governance involves a multiplicity of regulatory regimes and succeeding governance ambiguities for national actors. These regulatory challenges and ensuring governance dilemmas increasingly affect contemporary European public administration. These challenges and dilemmas are captured by the term turbulence. The inherent state prerogative to formulate and implement public policy is subject to an emergent and turbulent EU administration. Organized turbulence is captured by the supply of independent and integrated bureaucratic capacities at a “European level.” Throughout history (1952 onwards) the EU system has faced shifting hostile and uncertain environments, and responded by erecting turbulent organizational solutions of various kinds. Studying turbulence opens an opportunity to rethink governance in turbulent administrative systems such as the public administration of the EU.

Article

The Single European Act  

Desmond Dinan

The Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 was the first major reform of the founding treaties of the three original European Communities, the forerunners of the European Union (EU). The main purpose of the SEA was to facilitate implementation of the Single Market Program by the end of 1992, notably by making it possible for national governments to enact the necessary legislation in the Council of Ministers by means of qualified-majority voting (QMV). To complement the shift of decision-making from unanimity to QMV, the SEA also increased the legislative authority of the European Parliament by introducing the cooperation procedure. This was intended to help close the EC’s perceived democratic deficit, or at least to prevent it from widening. The SEA included changes in other policy areas as well as the single market, such as cohesion policy, environmental policy, research and technology policy, and intergovernmental cooperation on foreign policy (European Political Cooperation). The SEA, and the Single Market Program with which it is closely associated, became synonymous with the acceleration of European integration in the late 1980s. Procedurally and substantively, the SEA set a precedent for other, far-reaching treaty reforms, especially the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. Jacques Delors, who became commission president in 1985, is widely credited with having engineered the SEA. The leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom may have played a more important role, especially as the SEA emerged out of a complicated intergovernmental conference, which culminated in a meeting of the European Council in December 1985. From the perspective of more than three decades later, with the EU facing serious setbacks, the SEA looks like a shining light in the history of European integration.

Article

Higher Education Policy in the European Union  

Dorota Dakowska

Whether higher education (HE) can be defined as a European Union (EU) policy has been matter of debate. Formally, education is still a domestic prerogative, and in principle, the EU can only support and supplement national governments’ initiatives in the sector. Yet, this official division of tasks has been challenged in many ways over the last decades. First, the history of European integration shows that the European community took an early interest in educational matters. The Treaty of Rome established a community competency on vocational training. Subsequently, the European Commission framed HE and vocational training as two entangled policies. Second, the EU institutions, the member states, and noninstitutional actors have coordinated in innovative ways, through soft governance processes promoted by the Bologna Process and the EU Lisbon—and later Europe 2020—strategy, to impose a European HE governance based on standards and comparison. Third, the study of HE requires going beyond an EU-centric perspective, with international organizations such as the OECD and the Council of Europe cooperating closely with the European Commission. HE has been increasingly shaped by global trends, such as the increased competition between universities. The mechanisms of European HE policy change have elicited academic debates. Three main explanations have been put forward: the power of instruments and standards, the impact of the Commission’s funding schemes, and the influence of interconnected experts, stakeholders and networks. Domestic translations of European recommendations are highly diverse and reveal a gap between formal adaptations and local practices. Twenty years after the Bologna declaration, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) presents a mixed picture. On the one hand, increased mobility and the growing interconnectedness of academic schemes facilitate the launch of ambitious projects such as the “European universities.” On the other hand, concerns are periodically raised about the growing bureaucratization of the process and the widening gap between the small world of the Brussels stakeholders and everyday academic practices in EHEA participant countries. Paradoxically, smaller and non-EU countries have been more actively involved in advancing the EHEA than large, older EU member states.

Article

The Lisbon Treaty  

Jacques Ziller

The expression “the Lisbon Treaty” (LT) is a shortcut to the treaties upon which the European Union (EU) has been based since December 1, 2009. During the “reflection period” that lasted from June 2005 to December 2006 three options were available: remaining with the European treaties as amended by the Nice Treaty; starting new negotiations in order to adopt some changes deemed technically necessary; or trying to get “the substance” of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) of 2004 approved in the form a new treaty. Most member states and the EU institutions were in favor of the third option. The negotiations that led to the adoption of the LT in December 2007 departed from the usual treaty amendment scenarios. The content of the LT is to a large extent similar to that of the CT, as most of the novel provisions of that treaty have been taken over as they were written in the CT and introduced in the existing European Community (EC) and EU treaties. Apart from a few institutional innovations such as the Permanent President of the European Council and the new voting system in the Council, most innovations with regard to the European communities are to be found in the details. The ratification process of the LT was difficult, as it was slowed down by the necessity to hold two referenda in Ireland, and to overcome the resistance of the President of the Czech Republic, an overt Euroskeptic. The negotiations of 2007–2009 shed some light on the importance in EU policy-making and especially in treaty negotiations of the epistemic community of legal experts and, more precisely, of experts in EU law. Events in the years 2010 and 2011 led to minor treaty amendments, shaping the present content of what is usually referred to as the LT. Whether Brexit and the EP elections of 2019 will lead to important changes remains unknown.