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Subsidiarity as a Subject of Battle in European Union Politics  

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.


Sweden and the European Union  

Karl Magnus Johansson

Membership in the European Union (EU) entails adjustments or changes in national democracies. Sweden joined the EU in 1995, and EU membership has given rise to controversies in the public debate as well as in the academic community. In an effort to legitimize membership in the public debate, the consequences in terms of sovereignty were summarized in the official Swedish discourse on EU membership as a loss in formal sovereignty but an increase in real sovereignty. This entailed a reinterpretation of popular sovereignty, as stipulated by the Swedish constitution, as well as of democracy, implying that efficiency or problem-solving capacity was emphasized more than procedural democracy. The controversy surrounding the question of influence came to the fore in connection with the euro referendum in 2003. While some argued that remaining outside the euro would come with a political price—marginalization—others emphasized the lack of evidence for such effects. To some extent, this remains a moot point, not least as a result of the expansion and importance of the euro zone. Another salient question is whether or not there is political opposition, that is, conflict rather than consensus in EU affairs. Research claims that (allegedly almost nonexistent) previous research had underestimated the degree of political opposition or conflict, notably in parliament. Moreover, results suggest that there is variation in EU opposition across time and policy areas. In addition there are different interpretations of either decentering or centering effects. Whereas some claim that fragmentation or decentralization is the central feature of the Europeanization of the Swedish state, other researchers submit that the predominant tendency is rather centralization, as the demands of EU decision making—not least EU summitry—on national policy coordination have been a principal driving factor in this process. These are main themes in the debate over the EU and EU membership in Sweden. Included here are a series of analytical narratives and counternarratives, as well as a discussion of important implications for the national democracy and for the distribution or redistribution of power among domestic political actors therein.


Twenty Years of de facto State Studies: Progress, Problems, and Prospects  

Scott Pegg

It has been almost 20 years since the publication of International Society and the De Facto State by Scott Pegg in 1998, the first book-length substantive theoretical attempt to investigate the phenomenon of de facto states—secessionist entities that control territory, provide governance, receive popular support, persist over time, and seek widespread recognition of their proclaimed sovereignty and yet fail to receive it. Even though most de facto states are relatively small and fragile actors, in the intervening years the study of de facto or contested or unrecognized statehood has expanded dramatically. The de facto state literature has contributed significantly to the growing recognition that the international system is far more variegated than is commonly perceived. An initial focus on the external relations of de facto states has increasingly given way to a newer focus on their internal dynamics and domestic state-building processes and on how a lack of sovereign recognition conditions but does not prohibit their democratic, institutional, and political development. Perhaps most notably, there has been an explosion in detailed empirical research based on original data, which has greatly enriched our understanding of these entities. Alas, the subfield of de facto state studies is also characterized by recurrent problems. There has been an extensive proliferation of different terms used to describe these entities, and much fighting has erupted over precise definitions, resulting in limited scholarly progress. Fundamentally, there remains a continued failure to reach agreement on the number of these entities that exist or have existed since 1945. The nuanced and empirically rich academic literature has also largely failed to advance journalists or policymakers’ understanding of de facto states. Yet, the prospects for de facto state studies remain bright. More diverse comparative work, renewed attention to how engagement without recognition might facilitate the participation of unrecognized entities in international politics, a renewed focus on parent state strategies, and increased attention to de facto states and conflict resolution are areas deserving of greater scholarly attention.


The State of Hezbollah? Sovereignty as a Potentiality in Global South Contexts  

Imad Mansour

The understanding of the differences in what a state and nonstate actors are and do in the Global South is augmented if we historicize these categories. In particular, the category of the nonstate actor is best understood when contextualized in the project of the state in which such actors operate. Building on established critical approaches, it is necessary to interrogate the a priori assumption that distinctions that frame as exclusively distinct categories of state and nonstate actors hold blanket validity for understanding politics in the Global South. A meaningful understanding of how an actor’s influence—regardless of category—is enhanced when placed in a context, and where analysis addresses strategies and actions and their effects. To this end, an actor is defined as an entity with two characteristics: it is able to develop preferences and goals, and it is able to mobilize individuals and material resources in their pursuit. Presenting the benefits of contextual analysis shows how a focus on actors’ “sovereign potentialities” (i.e., attributes such as control over territory, service provision, generation of markers of identity, and the international recognition that an actor has and through which it can impose change on its context and environment) allows for a clearer understanding of what constrains or enables actors qua actors. One way to explain the analytical purchase of this argument is via a novel reading of Hezbollah and of Lebanon’s politics, which is the party’s anchoring context. This makes it possible to analyze the profound effects of Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon and regionally through its alliance with Syria (and Iran), its appeal to a wider Arab audience, and its confrontation with Israel. Special attention is given to Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon, its involvement in the 2012–2013 Qusayr battle in support of the Syrian government, and its decision-making during the 2006 Israel War. This discussion will highlight Hezbollah’s state-like and non-state-like sovereign potentialities, and the factors that limit or enable its strategies in different contexts.


Federalism and Policy Implementation  

Kenneth Wiltshire

Implementing public policies in federations involves clashes of concept and practice. In its design, federalism is not particularly conducive to the formulation and implementation of public policy because the acclaimed strengths of a federal form of government, including diversity, fragmentation of power and sovereignty, and responsiveness to regional and cultural interests, all serve to make the introduction of national policies complex and challenging. This is especially the case regarding the implementation phase of policies which tends to be a most difficult task given the layers and negotiating steps through which policies must pass before being delivered to clients. Success in implementing public policies in federations requires a mixture of strategies that can range from coercion to collaboration and cooperation. Achieving performance with accountability throughout this process has proven difficult in most federations. Moreover most of the literature has avoided the client perspective, in particular whether citizens really care about the vagaries of federal arrangements as they simply want to see the programs that affect their daily lives delivered efficiently, effectively, and accountably.


Hungary and the European Union  

Robert Csehi

Hungary became a member of the European Union (EU) alongside nine other, mainly East-Central European (ECE) countries in 2004. Although Hungary was one of the leading candidates from the former Soviet bloc to join the EU after the transition in 1989–1990, this positive view and the advantage that the country enjoyed seemed to gradually disappear by the mid-2000s. Hungarian experience with the EU is quite ambivalent. Economically speaking, on the one hand there is a slow but steady convergence to the EU average, which is largely due to the net beneficiary status of the country within the Community, and employment levels have increased considerably. On the other hand, the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) point to shortcomings related to competitiveness, and labor productivity, which indicate some missed opportunities. Similarly, although budgetary deficit and public debt have been under control lately, sustainability concerns still remain. Additionally, even though the country’s prospects to join the common currency area are quite promising, political willingness is still lacking to make a lasting commitment to the Euro. While the socio-economic expectations of EU membership before accession were quite high and rather unrealistic, although economic growth decreased the level of overall poverty, socioeconomic inequalities have increased lately because of government policies. As far as politics is concerned, even the consensus of the political elite to support liberal democracy as a political system and further integration of the EU as a policy strategy have been questioned by the main governing party lately. Instead, a more Eurosceptic tone and an incremental democratic decline characterizes everyday politics, which has led to recurring criticism within the Community, and the eventual triggering of an Article 7 Procedure.


Sovereignty as a Resource and Curse in Africa  

Pierre Englebert

The sovereignty of postcolonial African states is largely derived from their recognition by other states and by the United Nations, irrespective of their actual effectiveness. Such international legal sovereignty has been a resource to weak African states, allowing them to endure against the odds, and to their rulers who have instrumentalized it to foster their domestic authority and domination. Yet, African sovereignty has also been a curse. Being exogenous to domestic social and political relations, it tends to isolate and shield rulers from the ruled and predisposes state institutions toward predation. It also standardizes and homogenizes the continent’s institutional landscape in disregard to the wealth and promise of effective institutional arrangements on the ground, to which it denies legitimacy. Despite the equilibrium properties of the African sovereignty regime, there might be opportunities to tweak the system in ways that could unleash more effective and accountable state and nonstate institutions.


The Council of Ministers of the European Union  

Jeffrey Lewis

The Council of Ministers, officially known as the Council of the European Union (EU), is a single legal composition of national ministers who meet in policy-specific formations to negotiate and adopt EU policies and laws. The Council is more than just the ministers; they depend on an infrastructure of preparatory bodies and specialist working groups, as well as rotating and permanent leadership positions and an internal bureaucracy, the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC). Over time, the Council has undergone formal restructuring, such as sharing colegislative authority with the European Parliament (EP), now called the “ordinary legislative procedure” (OLP), and redesigning how majority voting works. The Council has also witnessed informal organizational change, especially in internal pecking-order dynamics and techniques to reach consensus-based outcomes. EU Council research has documented formal and informal decision-making dynamics, especially related to voting and consensus practices, although there is no real agreement on how formal and informal rules interact to influence the context of negotiations. There is still a divergence of interpretation in how the Council actually works, such as whether consensus is a “culture” of mutual accommodation subject to group standards or is instead a façade of relative power. As an institution, the Council deliberately promotes clublike networks of like-minded national policy specialists and experts who meet in repeat, face-to-face interactions and make collective decisions in mostly nontransparent (in camera) settings of insulation from domestic audiences. However, in the post-Maastricht era of EU politics since the early 1990s, the way the Council works is also increasingly debated in terms of transparency, accountability, and legitimacy.


Peasant Movements in Latin America  

Bernardo Mançano Fernandes

The peasantry has always acted in the production of food as a condition of maintaining its existence. Threatened continuously by large landowners, governments, national and multinational corporations, peasants organize themselves in movements or other institutions to resist the expropriation processes. The peasant movements of Latin America are the most active in the world. One of the reasons for their high level of organization is their history. Formed in territories dominated by colonizers, enslaved and subordinates, they fought for independence and freedom. Since the 1960s, agribusiness has become territorialized on the ruins of peasant communities; again, the perseverance of the peasantry promotes persistent resistance in the continuous struggle for land and agrarian reform. Knowing the realities of the peasant movements in Latin America makes it possible to understand the reason for their existence—not for the development of capitalist agriculture but by the continuous process the formation of family agriculture that distinguishes more and more conventional agriculture. Since the 1970s, the peasantry has built an agroecological path against agribusiness that increasingly develops commodities with pesticides for the production of ultraprocessed foods. These realities are permanently in people’s daily lives and make them pay attention to the types of food that are on their tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Few people understand the importance of the peasantry in their daily lives.


National Secession  

Philip G. Roeder

National secession seeks to create a new sovereign state for a nation residing on its homeland that is currently located inside another sovereign state. This goal distinguishes national secession from regional secession, autonomy, and decolonization and shapes the strategies, operational objectives, and tactical choices of the leaders of national-secession campaigns. Explanations for the success of some campaigns—particularly, success at getting on the global agenda—have focused on the identities, grievances, or greed of their members. Explanations for why some campaigns have turned to protracted intense violence have focused on these motivations and on tactical-logistical opportunities. The existing literature suffers from its failure to agree on theoretical and conceptual fundamentals. As a consequence, empirical studies focus on very different universes of cases and operationalize key variables in diverging ways. The existing literature frequently does not consider how the goal of national secession constrains the strategies, operations, and tactics of such campaigns. And so, it often fails to consider whether studies with another dependent variable can be extended to the study of national secession. Explanations stress indeterminate or substitutable causes and remote constraints on most national-secession campaigns—causes and constraints taken “off the shelf” from theories about conflicts operating under very different strategic and operational constraints. Missing from these explanations is the authenticity and realism of the programs for national secession in the assessments of the populations that each program presents as a nation with a right to a sovereign state of its own. Explanations and recommendations for responses by common-state governments, their allies, and the international community often fail to understand the centrality of the war of programs between national secessionists and common-state governments and the ways this constrains what compromises are possible and what responses are most likely to lead to domestic and international peace in such conflicts.


Multilevel Governance as a Global Governance Challenge: Assumptions, Methods, Shortcomings, and Future Directions  

Joachim K. Rennstich

Multilevel governance (MLG) as a research approach has mostly been applied to explain governance issues surrounding the European Union or international organizations. As a general research framework in the area of international relations (IR) theory, however, MLG has widely been underutilized, despite the many advantages that the approach offers in the empirical investigation of an increasingly complex international or global system. There are key concepts, assumptions, and definitions of MLG that focus separately on levels and governance as key elements of the approach and its interdisciplinary lineage. Some contested IR concepts include sovereignty, the nation-state, the international system, anarchy, agency, and levels of analysis. These IR concepts benefit from the application of an MLG framework by enabling the use of an interdisciplinary and multimethodological, yet systematically comprehensive, approach—which allows for nuanced use of these concepts. Other areas that benefit from IR methodologies applied in MLG research are methodological toolkits with a special focus on the areas of global governance, security studies, and international political economy.


States and Nonstate Armed Groups (NAGs) in International Relations Theory  

Belgin San-Akca

The international arena has been plagued with violence committed by a variety of Nonstate Armed Groups (NAGs), including ethnic and religious insurgents, terrorists, and revolutionaries, which threaten not only the states they target but also the entire world’s stability and security. An intriguing observation related to armed groups is their ability to attract outside state supporters. Indeed, almost half of all groups that emerged in the post-World War II period received some form of backing from states including but not limited to funds, arms, and safe havens. In this respect, it is possible to draw parallels between interstate alliances and state–group alliances. The major International Relations theories—realism, liberalism, and constructivism—have significant insights to offer in explaining the origin and evolution of state–rebel group alliances. These insights are empirically tested using new data on outside state support of rebel groups that emerged in the post–1945 period. Two forms of alliances exist between states and groups: strategic or instrumental and principled or ideational. A strategic alliance occurs if a state supports a group fighting against its enemy or rival, so security-related concerns and common threat motivate a given alliance. An ideational or principled alliance occurs if a state supports an ideationally contiguous armed group with which it has ethnic, religious, and/or ideological ties. Whether there is a strategic or principled alliance between armed groups and their state supporters has implications for the onset, course and termination of non-state violence in world politics. The empirical findings using large-N statistical analysis show that (1) states form alliances with rebel groups in both the absence and presence of interstate hostilities; (2) states form alliances with ideationally contiguous rebel groups, that is, groups that have common ethnic, religious, and ideological ties to states’ population and/or a group of people in its society; (3) democratic states do not ally with rebels, which fight against other democratic states; and (4) states, in general, are less likely to support rebels, which fight against ideationally contiguous states. Socialism emerges as a unifying ideology contributing to a high degree of solidarity both among states and between states and armed groups. The empirical findings imply that the perceived motivation of state supporters by armed groups; whether states support rebels due to strategic or ideational concerns, should have some influence on armed groups’ level of lethality, duration, and attitude toward civilians and governments they fight against. Only a fully developed research agenda offering empirically informed theoretical insights can address these questions by facilitating future venues of research on the origin and evolution of state–NAG alliances.


Populism in Foreign Policy  

Angelos Chryssogelos

The topic of populism in foreign policy is receiving growing attention in academic and public discourse as populist parties and movements proliferate around the world. Yet foreign policy analysis (FPA) scholars interested in the role of populism in foreign policy have to deal with a concept that is notoriously slippery and contested. The existing literature on populism and foreign policy has already offered interesting insights. Focused primarily on Europe, it usually applies the conceptualization of populism as a thin-centered ideology that attaches to thicker ideological traditions and reformulates them in terms of the elite-people divide. Following this conceptualization (that is today the dominant framework for the comparative analysis of populism, particularly in Europe), this literature argues that populist parties of the right have foreign policy positions that reflect their nativism, opposition to immigration, focus on national sovereignty, and rejection of economic and cultural globalization. Populist parties of the left on the other hand reject in their foreign policy positions neo-liberalism and open markets. Together, European populist parties of all persuasions are Eurosceptic, anti-American, and usually pro-Putin’s Russia. Highlighted are the breadth of critical and discursive approaches on populism that scholars of populism and foreign policy can use, particularly because they have been applied successfully to cases outside of Europe, where populists have long held political power and have influenced foreign policy in practice. Such conceptualizations commonly view populism as a reaction to crises of political representation engendered by dislocations caused by globalization and other shifts in international politics. These dislocations will take different forms, but populism in the West and populism in the Global South can be seen, despite more specific differences of outlook, at the very least as a specific type of reaction to concurrent political and economic crises in a rapidly denationalized and deterritorialized world. In this context, most populist foreign policies reflect a preoccupation with popular sovereignty and unmediated projection of popular demands and national interests outside of established processes of global governance. Populists will also tend to perceive and analyze foreign policy issues through the lens of the elite-underdog opposition. Populism is commonly associated or conflated with nationalism (especially in the case of the European radical right) and isolationism, but in practice this does not always have to be the case. The “people” for whom populists speak in international affairs can very well transcend national borders, as evidenced, for example, in the foreign policies of Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who aimed to represent transnational constituencies like the Global South, the Islamic world, the world poor, etc. And while populists generally eschew commitments to broader milieu goals of the international system, they can still engage with foreign affairs if they see immediate material benefits. The same goes for trade: populists (particularly in the United States) are seen usually as ideological protectionists, but most often they do not mind striking trade deals if these favor their interests (see, e.g., Donald Trump’s discourse on this issue). In terms of theoretical and methodological advancements, foreign policy scholars interested in populism are urged to embrace the large variety of conceptual approaches on populism (ideological, critical, discursive) and to build on the growing literature on cross-regional comparison of populist politics, something particularly pertinent in a world characterized by the presence and prominence of populism in almost all world regions.


Iceland and European Integration  

Baldur Thorhallsson

Iceland’s European policy is a puzzle. Iceland is deeply embedded in the European project despite its non-EU membership status. Iceland is a member of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (1970), the European Economic Area (EEA) (1994), and Schengen (2001). Moreover, Iceland applied for membership in the European Union (EU) in 2009. Nonetheless, the Icelandic political elite have been reluctant to partake in the European integration process. They have hesitated to take any moves toward closer engagement with Europe unless such a move is seen as necessary to deal with a crisis situation. Decisions to engage with the European project have not been made based on outright economic and political preferences. They have primarily been based on economic or political necessity at times when the country has faced a deep economic downturn or its close neighboring states have decided to take part in European integration. The country has essentially been forced to take part in the project in order to prevent crises from emerging or to cope with a current crisis situation. For instance, in 2009, Iceland unexpectedly applied for membership in the EU after the collapse of its economy nine months earlier. However, four years later, after a swift economic recovery and after Iceland having been “betrayed” by the EU in the so-called Ice-save dispute with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the accession process was put on hold. The EU was no longer seen as an economic and political savior. Iceland’s close relationships with its powerful neighboring states, the United States and the United Kingdom, have also had considerable influence on the country’s European policy. Iceland’s membership in the EFTA, the EEA, and Schengen was largely dictated by the Nordic states’ decisions to join the organizations and because of crisis situations their lack of membership would have meant for Iceland were it to be left out. Moreover, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the Union has firmly frozen Iceland’s accession process and contributed to increased criticism of the transfer of autonomy from Reykjavik to Brussels that takes place with the EEA Agreement. Furthermore, many at the right of center in Icelandic politics do not see any security reasons for joining the EU, as Iceland’s defense is guaranteed by a bilateral defense treaty with the United States and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). European debates about partial and full participation in the European project have led to harsh opposition in Althingi (the National Parliament), deep divisions in society at large, and public protests. Opposition has been driven by an overwhelming focus on sovereignty concerns. The political discourse on sovereignty and self-determination prevails except when the country is faced with a crisis situation. To prevent a crisis from emerging or to deal with a current crisis, Icelandic politicians reluctantly decide to take partial part in the European project. They are determined to keep autonomy over sectors of primary political importance, sectors that are close to the heart of the nation, those of agriculture and fisheries.


Humanitarian Aid and the European Union  

Francesca Pusterla and Elia Pusterla

The European Union Humanitarian Aid Policy (EUHAP) operates through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (DG ECHO) in international humanitarian crises to help victims of man-made atrocities and natural catastrophes worldwide. EUHAP is a subject of vibrant debates given its sensitive scope of intervention and institutional uniqueness. This results, first, in discussions of the reason and legitimacy of humanitarian aid as well as the goals and impact on domestic politics of both donors and recipients. Second, EUHAP is institutionally provided with parallel competences that allow simultaneous and autonomous interventions of the European Union and Member States in humanitarian crises. This means that the EU and Member States can formally carry out independent humanitarian aid without obligation to coordinate. This makes EUHAP particularly relevant regarding the role of the EU as a humanitarian aid provider, the relations between the EU and Member States, the policy governance, and the policy implementation principles. First, coordination and cooperation between the EU and Member States are de facto essential, given the collective nature and global effects of humanitarian crises. Shared competence regulation through EUHAP may enhance the effectiveness of joint operations, overcome inefficient division of labor, and avoid divergence between intervention expected outcome and real performance. Second, parallel competences give to the EU the formal competence to carry out humanitarian actions and conduct a common policy, while Member States’ autonomous actions are not prevented. Indeed, despite the undeniable benefits of multilateral intervention, Member States may opt for bilateralism due to concerns for domestic autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Such collective action problems risk affecting policy coherence and effectiveness. Third, policy governance can make the difference in an effective and coherent EUHAP. This depends on the successful coordination of involved actors to avoid overlapping interventions, dispersion of resources, and particular political, economic, and bureaucratic interests to prevail. In so doing, Member States access the benefits of centralized coordination, monitoring, and division of labor and also avoid autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Fourth, the application of a costs/benefits rationale to common humanitarian interventions is not per se sufficient to ground and overcome the drawbacks of collective action and explain EUHAP. As per its Treaties, or in line with international humanitarian law, the EU adopts and pursues a humanitarian aid policy based on shared principles of solidarity, humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality.