Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


Why governance?

The proposals outlined in the White paper for change in the EU are also an example of what, in analytical terms, political scientists call governance. This is not political rule through responsible institutions such as parliament and bureaucracy - which amounts to government, - but innovative practices of networks or horizontal forms of interaction. It is a method for dealing with political controversies in which actors, political and non-political, arrive at mutually acceptable decisions by deliberating and negotiating with each other. Governance is based on a variety of different processes with different authority bases, and highlights the role of voluntary and non-profit organisations in joint decision-making and implementation and the semi-public character of modern political enterprise. (Schmitter 2001) In legitimacy terms, it is clearly deficient as popular sovereignty is not brought to bear on the processes. It is merely steering without democracy, and governance without government. (Rosenau and Czempiel 1992)

This is much in line with recent scholarships in its efforts to conceptualise the EU. The EU is conceived as a system of multi-level governance which consists of multi-tiered, geographically overlapping structures of governmental and non-governmental élites4. Some analysts term this the new governance agenda, which means that governing is no longer exclusively statal, that the relationship between state and non state actors is non-hierarchical and that "the key governance function is `regulation' of social and political risk, instead of resource `redistribution'" (Hix 1998:39). The White Paper underscores this view of European co-operation by accentuating the role of agencies in conducting public affairs. A range of regulatory agencies already exists in the Member States, some of which apply Community law. However, much in line Giandomenico Majone, who opts for the regulatory state, more independent agencies should be created. The regulatory state does not need popular legitimation proper, as politically independent institutions, such as specialist agencies, Central Banks, judicial review, the delegation of policy-making powers to independent regulatory commissions, etc., provide the required legitimation of a unit constructed to resolve the perceived problems of the Member States. (Majone 1996).

Proponents of the regulatory state contend that the existing institutional complex of the EU does, in fact, also produce a more transparent and accountable policy process than the domestic policy processes of the Member States actually do. The argument is that the intergovernmental structure provides for a constant presence of national officials in the Council and in the Commission, the oversight of 15 national governments, the tradition of publicising Council decisions, the complex and multi-level stages of decision-making, and that the extensive publicity and interest intermediation and the role of the NGOs, etc., keep the EU in close contact with the constituencies. From the limited perspective of the EU as a problem-solving regulatory state -dealing with regulation, not redistribution - this, it is contended, will suffice. In as far as the EU merely solves the problems of the Member States with respect to their interests and preferences, and does not impinge upon national identities, the established institutional structure is adequate.

However, it is difficult to distinguish between regulation and redistribution. What we have seen is a regulatory `race to the top' in some policy fields of the EU, rather than one `to the bottom'. In certain areas, such as consumer and environment protection, health, bio-technology, and workplace conditions, standards have been raised (Egan and Wolf 1999:253). Further, the pattern is one of re-regulation and modernisation rather than deregulation and the politics of the lowest common denominator (cf., Joerges and Everson 2000). Re-regulation is actually taking place at EU level with severe impact on both the citizens and the Member States. Thus, the premise of the regulatory state model does not hold.

4 There is a large body of literature on this; see, for example, Marks 1993; Jachtenfuchs and Kohler-Koch (eds) 1996: Marks, G., Hooghe, L. and K. Blank 1996; Kohler-Koch and Eising 1999.




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