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Press release - Funeral service of President David Sassoli

European Parliament - Fri, 14/01/2022 - 11:43
David Sassoli's state funeral will take place today at 12.00 noon at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in Rome.

Source : © European Union, 2022 - EP
Categories: European Union

The German ‘traffic light’ coalition: no commitment to stronger spending powers for the EU

Ideas on Europe Blog - Fri, 14/01/2022 - 09:52

With the new ‘traffic light’ government in Germany, one could have expected a game changer in Germany’s approach to fiscal integration. Instead, the coalition agreement is a compromise between maintaining the old fiscal regulatory framework and showing some moderate opening towards new European spending powers.

The so-called ‘traffic light’ coalition in Germany is made up by the the Social Democrats (SDP), the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) (Photo: Francisco Welter-Schultes, CC0 1.0)

The coalition agreement of the new German government led by Olaf Scholz does not advocate for providing the EU with stronger spending powers after the pandemic – something often discussed and considered necessary for a better functioning of the EU. As a result, the agreement mirrors much more the position of the Liberals (FDP, in favour of the ‘old’ EU fiscal rules) rather than the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens (in favour of new spending powers). The approach to EU fiscal integration of the Scholz cabinet will thus probably be marked by much more continuity to the previous Merkel governments than expected.

SDP, Greens and FDP: different preferences on EU fiscal integration

Such continuity is surprising considering the party manifestos of SPD and Greens. SPD and Greens want to permanently provide the EU with a more autonomous spending capacity through new European taxes. Next Generation EU should become a permanent fund for investments, thus opening the doors to a fiscal union. The Stability and Growth Pact should be reformed to make it more flexible. Institutionally, both parties support more powers of the Commission and the European Parliament on EU fiscal policy. On the contrary, the FDP is against more spending powers for the EU. The party aims at strengthening the existing fiscal rules. For FDP, Next Generation EU and its ‘debt-oriented’ approach are to be temporary limited and one-off and should not lead to a debt union (Schuldenunion, a word much used by the Merkel governments).

Hence, whereas SPD and Greens wish to institutionalize a new EU fiscal capacity after the pandemic, the Liberals want as soon as possible to re-institutionalize the fiscal rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (currently suspended due to the pandemic). Against these divergences, what is the fiscal synthesis included in the ‘traffic light’ coalition agreement between the SPD (red), the Greens (green) and the FDP (yellow)?

The coalition agreement and EU fiscal integration: (almost) no big surprise

Given that SPD (25.7 %) and Greens (14.8 %) together obtained 40.5 % of the votes against the Liberal’s 11.5 %, we would have expected a game changer in Germany’s approach to fiscal integration. Instead, the coalition agreement is a light compromise on keeping in place the old fiscal regulatory framework and showing some moderate opening towards new European spending powers. As a matter of fact, the coalition agreement aims to strengthen and deepen Economic and Monetary Union but does not specify how to do so. The three parties want to secure growth, to preserve the sustainability of debt and to provide sustainable and climate-friendly investments. However, they plan to do so without substantially amending the Stability and Growth Pact. Crucially, Next Generation EU is defined as an instrument limited in time and amount whose conditionality must be effectively enforced. SPD, Greens and FDP commit to the agreement on the recovery fund and on the new own resources of the Multiannual Financial Framework, but the coalition agreement adds that ‘related proposals will be examined accordingly’. Germany should remain an anchor of stability (Stabilitätsanker) in Europe. The coalition agreement identifies solidity of public finances as tenet of the budgetary and finance policy of the new coalition – both at national and at European level.

We would have expected a game changer in Germany’s approach to fiscal integration. Instead, the coalition agreement is a light compromise on keeping in place the old fiscal regulatory framework and showing some moderate opening towards new European spending powers.

The future of EU fiscal integration after the COVID-19 pandemic: no paradigm change envisaged

In an article published in 1993, Peter A. Hall distinguished three types of policy change: the goals, the instruments and the settings. If a policy faces a re-definition of its goals and instruments, it will experience a radical, i.e. a paradigmatic change. On the contrary, if change affects the instruments and their settings only, change will be moderate, i.e. incremental: it adds new elements to the existing policy without subverting its core functioning. If we read the three party manifestos through the lenses of paradigmatic policy change, we see that SPD and Greens argue for the need of a paradigmatic change to EU fiscal integration, whereas the FDP would support some form of incremental change – making the pre-pandemic regulatory framework stricter.

Surprisingly enough, the fiscal synthesis of two parties in favour of paradigmatic change and one party supporting an incremental change results in a much less ambitious text than expected. There is no mention of increasing the EU’s spending capacity nor any other concrete measure on how to complete the Economic and Monetary Union. On the contrary, the Stability and Growth Pact should be more effectively enforced. No priority is granted to the introduction of new resources to the EU budget.

By stressing member states’ exclusive responsibility for their fiscal policy as a tenet of fiscal integration, the text closes the door on establishing a fiscal union. The need for increasing investments at EU level and in Germany has been recognized, but the preservative approach in favour of the status quo remains there. As a result, a significant deepening of integration after the pandemic will be difficult without having Germany on board. This seems true considering that the presidency of Emmanuel Macron – who had repeatedly advocated paradigmatic change to EU fiscal integration – is about to finish. Recent polls suggest he is the favourite for re-election but it is too early to predict the outcome of the French election of 10 April 2022. In Italy, the fate of the Draghi government depends on whether Draghi himself remains prime ministers or becomes president of the Republic. The lack of ‘propulsive force’ on the side of the new German government might result in losing the critical juncture of the COVID-19 pandemic to significantly advance on the road towards closer EU fiscal integration.

A traffic light strongly blinking yellow: the finance ministry led by the FDP

Crucially, the FDP seems to have influenced the fiscal policy of the new government more than its proportional weight in the coalition would have suggested – both at European and at national level. The leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, has become the new German finance minister. This ministry is given a particular importance in Germany. According to §26 of the procedural motion of the German government, if on a matter regarding public finances the government decides without or against the vote of the finance minister, the latter can veto such decision. The veto can only be overcome through unanimity among the ministers, otherwise the decision needs to be stopped. In addition to that, the finance minister clearly plays a key role on EU fiscal policy through his vote in the ECOFIN Council – which impacts both on issues pertaining to the enforcement of EU fiscal rules as part of the Stability and Growth Pact and also on decisions regarding new resources to the EU budget.

The FDP seems to have influenced the fiscal policy of the new government more than its proportional weight in the coalition would have suggested

The new German government will have to be judged based on what it concretely does. So far, we only have political plans on paper. What will then be possible in practice is another issue. However, on EU fiscal integration the new coalition agreement seems to blink more yellow than red or green. A traffic light blinking yellow might on some occasion be the moment immediately before proceeding forward. On some others, it might be the sign for stopping.

The post The German ‘traffic light’ coalition: no commitment to stronger spending powers for the EU appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

4/2022 : 13 January 2022 - Formal sitting

European Court of Justice (News) - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 13:23
Entry into office of three new Members of the General Court of the European Union

Categories: European Union

3/2022 : 13 January 2022 - Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-110/20

European Court of Justice (News) - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 13:00
Regione Puglia
Freedom of establishment
A Member State may, within the geographical limits set by it, grant several licenses to the same operator for the prospection, exploration and production of hydrocarbons, such as petrol and natural gas, for adjacent areas, provided that it ensures non-discriminatory access to those activities for all operators and assesses the cumulative effect of projects likely to have significant effects on the environment

Categories: European Union

2/2022 : 13 January 2022 - Judgment of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C-177/19 P

European Court of Justice (News) - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 12:29
Allemagne - Ville de Paris and Others v Commission,C-178/19 P Hongrie - Ville de Paris e.a./Commission
Environment and consumers
The Court of Justice sets aside the judgment of the General Court partially annulling the Commission regulation fixing emission values for real driving emissions tests for new light vehicles.

Categories: European Union

1/2022 : 13 January 2022 - Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-282/19

European Court of Justice (News) - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 11:37
MIUR and Ufficio Scolastico Regionale per la Campania
Teachers of Catholic religious education: the requirement to hold a suitability certificate issued by a Church authority does not justify the renewal of fixed-term contracts

Categories: European Union

A new year of Brexiting

Ideas on Europe Blog - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 07:35

The arrival of 2022 has brought both continuity and change to the UK’s relationship with the EU.

The resignation of Lord Frost in December has precipitated a major reorganisation (possibly still on-going) of the government’s management of EU and Brexit affairs, but the new point on the relationship – Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – has very much stuck to the same talking notes on the Northern Ireland Protocol as her predecessor.

The reorganisation starts to break up the significant collection of roles that Frost had built up in the past couple of years, probably more because of his proximity to Boris Johnson than through any conscious project of coordinating the multiple aspects of the work.

The move of the bilateral relationship out to the FCDO fits with a more natural model of diplomacy, and normalises EU relations as just part of the furniture, but it comes with a number of real challenges for Truss and her junior minister, man of letters Chris Heaton-Harris (who is presumably going to be even more delayed with that book).

Firstly, WA and TCA implementation covers a wide range of departments’ activities, so lots of coordination will be needed. Secondly, Johnson will retain a big interest in the portfolio, so handling the FCDO-No.10 connection will also need much attention.

The work on borders and on ‘Brexit opportunities’ is still up in the air; as Jill Rutter well argues, each could be well snaffled up by other departments, either as an on-going whole or in parts. That this remains unaddressed in the near-month since the FCDO move suggests stasis is the more likely option, given the limited shelf life of each project.

The graphic below summarises the changes and we’ll come back to it as anything happens.

On the continuity front, the switch from Frost to Truss has also seen the continuing ambiguity about how hard the UK wants to push to close the Protocol negotiations with the Commission. The initial contacts with the latter seem to have been couched – again – in terms of getting things sorted ‘as soon as possible’, rather than to any fixed timeline.

One question that lingers is that of whether the continued threat of using Article 16 carries either any weight in Brussels or even any seriousness in London: certainly, it has the air of being ritualistically waved about, rather than being ready to go.

I’ve discussed this question in the newest episode of A Diet of Brussels, and didn’t really come to a clear conclusion, mainly because the increasingly wounded Johnson might still go either way on this. Invoking Article 16 might be a way to rally the party to his cause once more, but it also risks making the ‘doneness’ of Brexit even more open to question.

So all still to be settled then.

Just like last year. And the ones before that.


The post A new year of Brexiting appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

Highlights - AFET/SEDE hearing: EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy:global partnership for peace & security - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

AFET and SEDE organise a joint public hearing on 'The EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy: global partnership for peace and security' on Thursday, 27 January 2022 from 9.00 to 10.30hrs in room SPINELLI 1E2 and remotely, with external experts.
Draft programme
Source : © European Union, 2022 - EP

Hearings - The EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy: global partnership for peace and security - 27-01-2022 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on Foreign Affairs

AFET and SEDE organise a joint public hearing on 'The EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy: global partnership for peace and security' on Thursday, 27 January 2022 from 9.00 to 10.30hrs in room SPINELLI 1E2 and remotely, with external experts.
Draft programme
Source : © European Union, 2022 - EP

France 2022: Back on the couch

Ideas on Europe Blog - Mon, 10/01/2022 - 12:50

How fitting: this spring, ARTE, the brainy French-German TV channel, will broadcast a second season of ‘En thérapie’, the French version of ‘In Treatment’ (itself based on the Israeli TV hit “Be Tipul”). 35 new episodes of people on the psychiatrist’s couch, composing what Le Monde called ‘an immobile travel across French society in the wake of the 2015 terror attacks.’ The first season, broadcast in early 2021, had been a totally unexpected success, more than doubling the channel’s average audience.

The exact broadcasting slot is not yet communicated, but end of April would no doubt be the best timing. The election campaign France is likely to have over the next months will leave the entire nation ripe for an in-depth collective therapy, worn out by endlessly quoted hysterical tweets, tired of its own paradoxes, and no wiser than before in its painful post-election hangover.

The first days of the new year have given a taste of what is to come. The polemic around the European flag under the Arc de Triomphe – meant to announce the French Presidency of the European Council, but threatening to ‘erase French identity’ according to the supposedly moderate conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse – has been a good teaser for the manner in which the presidential campaign will unfold. Ridiculous in its fake indignation and yet worrying in its real obsession with polarising at all costs.

Not to mention Emmanuel Macron’s carefully calculated “piss off”-interview with Le Parisien – which not only resulted in yet another predictable bashing of the President’s presumed contempt for ordinary people, while causing serious translation headaches for news correspondents across the continent, but also in over 230,000 new first jabs in one week, bringing the French vaccination rate to 92.2% of eligible individuals.

Two inflamed polemics in less than a week, and that’s while the President has not even declared his own candidacy yet. The Fifth Republic’s implacable logic of full confrontation and permanent rhetorical overbidding has set in and will continue to take speed over the next weeks, fuelled by a very peculiar media landscape.

French election campaigns are a painful experience for any observer who follows them with a minimum of empathy for this country. De Gaulle’s introduction of the direct election of the President, through a referendum in 1962 following the dissolution of a parliament refusing to be bulldozed, has held the Fifth Republic in a terrible stranglehold. What I wrote at the outset of the campaign five years ago is just as valid today: rather than refer to ‘path-dependency’, we should speak of ‘path imprisonment’.

France has always been a highly complicated society that is extremely difficult to understand from outside. Even the most scrupulous, well-intended observers rely on a good dose of stereotypical knowledge and seemingly revealing key words. But the relative stability of political behaviour patterns at the surface of the Republic cannot conceal the dramatic changes French society has undergone over the last decades. After having spent the past thirty years in this idiosyncratic sociocultural, linguistic and political environment, I wonder if it has not become increasingly difficult to decipher.

One more reason to accompany the weeks and months ahead with a modest attempt at addressing some of the issues that will dominate the unfolding election campaign. A lot of different topics deserve to be scrutinised,

  • starting with the deep soul-searching across the entire political spectrum of what still holds the country together,
  • but also more technical aspects, like the planned and unintended consequences of primaries held (or painstakingly avoided) and the disturbing uncertainty surrounding the legislative elections in June,
  • the seemingly unstoppable decline of the left and the strange phenomenon of the huge gap between the national and local/regional level of politics, dominated by two totally different ideological forces and fault lines,
  • ongoing attempts at historical revisionism and forthcoming challenges to collective memory,
  • and even the good old proverbial French pessimism deserves a second look in the light of recent surveys.

Without any pretension to be able to explain everything, it’s a good moment to invite French politics to lie down on the couch again.

The post France 2022: Back on the couch appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

The Wider Europe: a time for experiments

Ideas on Europe Blog - Fri, 07/01/2022 - 08:53

The next steps in the EU’s constitutional development must involve greater care for the wider Europe, Andrew Duff argues. He proposes the introduction of a new category of EU affiliate membership, allowing the EU’s western and eastern neighbours alike to become stable and reliable partners.

Enlargement must only proceed if it enhances the EU’s own security and that of the applicants. (Illustration: Dati Bendo/European Union)

One of the more diverting exercises in literary criticism during 2022 will be the simultaneous publication of NATO’s Strategic Concept and the EU’s Strategic Compass. Why do we need two documents to define the security interests of the West? The answer, like most things, lies in history. France feared that NATO would serve to expand American influence in Europe while Britain opposed the development of a security policy under EU auspices. Brexit has helpfully removed the British blockage on Europe’s common foreign and security policy. President Macron, meanwhile, advocates European sovereign autonomy not as a substitute for US engagement but as a supplement to it. The provocations of President Putin, not least in Ukraine, stimulate the coming together of the EU and NATO.

Security architecture

In my recent book Britain and the Puzzle of European Union (forthcoming 2022) I propose a reform of security architecture to underpin the new alignment. A European Security Council, chaired by an EU defence minister, would combine the efforts of the two Brussels based organisations — keeping the Americans alongside while encouraging Germany to upgrade its contribution to Europe’s defence against Russia. The purpose of the Security Council is to help NATO think strategically while enabling the EU to act militarily.

An early benefit of such a new configuration would be a common policy on enlargement. NATO’s open-door policy led to the glib promise in 2008 of NATO membership to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as well as to the haphazard admission of Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia — none of which has added to Europe’s security (indeed, rather the contrary). In a similar and uncoordinated spasm, the European Union in 2003 offered the prospect of enlargement to all six countries of the Western Balkans. The EU also allowed its 2014 association agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to be portrayed as being preparatory to candidacy for membership. This lax approach was, of course, encouraged by the UK which saw eastern enlargement as a way to blunt the federal tendency in Brussels.

Subsequent events suggest that those of us who expressed disquiet at these facile promises were correct. (Indeed, one may chastise oneself for not being more outspoken against them at the time.) As I have written recently in a European Policy Centre paper Dealing with the Neighbours, there is still a basic dishonesty at the heart of the EU’s enlargement policy. All potential candidate states suffer to a greater or lesser extent from an excess of nationalism, antisemitism, ethnic and religious tension, and unstable rule by corrupt judges and politicians. Most are quarrelling with their neighbours.

The prospect of further enlargement is viewed with alarm by most of the current member states. Although the Commission has introduced stricter verification of the accession process, Emmanuel Macron makes it clear that the Union will no longer continue to amiably ignore the Copenhagen enlargement criteria. Even were the technical accession requirements to be met, the EU’s rule of rigid unanimity (involving 27 national parliaments or referendums) poses an insuperable obstacle to actual enlargement (Art. 49 Treaty on European Union, TEU).

The problem, however, goes deeper. It is not only the case that the potential candidates are ineligible for membership, but also that the government of the EU itself is so muddled and inept that it cannot possibly shoulder the burden of running the Western Balkans or face Kremlin aggression with a united front. Failure to proceed with political reform of the Union since 2005 has rendered it incapable of enlarging. The time is over when the Union could pretend to welcome applicants when they pretended to be ready.

Affiliate membership?

I have proposed that at the next revision of the EU treaties a new category of affiliate membership is created (Art. 49a TEU). This would allow those European states which commit to the values of the EU and fall within its regulatory orbit but which do not espouse the goal of political, economic and monetary union to become stable and reliable partners.

For the EU’s western neighbours — Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK — affiliate membership would imply an upgrading of their present, different, unsatisfactory association or free trade agreements. Partial official engagement of the affiliate states with the political, administrative and judicial institutions of the Union would enable the partnership to develop in a stable, legitimate and democratic fashion. Some attributes of EU citizenship could be shared with affiliates in a spirit of good neighbourliness (Art. 8 TEU). Full participation in EU spending programmes could be envisaged. Affiliate status should be regarded as a durable settlement rather than a springboard for full membership.

For the EU’s eastern neighbours, affiliate membership would encourage economic and political convergence on EU norms without the challenge of leaping improbable hurdles involving the ultimate sacrifice of national sovereignty. It should encourage regional collaboration between, for example, Albania and Serbia. It would allow for closer political cooperation with Brussels and the systematic joint management of EU funding. Affiliate EU membership underpinned by the European Security Council would provide eastern Europe with an unprecedented level of stability and security.

Affiliate membership would also offer, should it be needed, a parking place for any current EU member state that sought to dissociate itself from an EU on the path towards federal union. Relegation to affiliate status would avoid the humiliation of secession (Art. 50 TEU).

Intermediate accession?

Working on the same assumption that the EU’s present enlargement policy is bust, the Centre for European Policy Studies has published a comparable but alternative proposal to mine. Michael Emerson, Milena Lazarevic, Steven Blockmans and Strahinja Subotic suggest that the candidate states should be admitted in stages to full membership of the Union. They propose an ingenious template for gradual accession in phases, involving partial participation in EU institutions. In the final pre-accession phase, after meeting various tests, the ‘new member states’ would be admitted to the EU Council but deprived of their right of unilateral veto. It is hoped that their participation only in decisions of the Council taken by qualified majority vote (QMV) would act avant la lettre as an example for all member states to emulate. Emerson and his colleagues are more optimistic than me.

Our two papers agree on many things, however, including the necessity of treaty revision, the extension of QMV and the need for a smaller Commission. We insist that the EU should reflect more deeply than it has done on the implications of Brexit for the constitutional evolution of the Union. Enlargement is not an academic exercise: it must only proceed if it enhances the EU’s own security and that of the applicants. It can hardly be in Serbia’s interest to join a Union which is not working well.

The next steps in the Union’s constitutional development must involve greater care for the wider Europe. It’s surely time to experiment. Maybe the Conference on the Future of Europe can help. Addressing the problem of the EU’s neighbourhood — east and west — has to involve the neighbours directly in constitutional discussions. Differentiated integration does not stop at the borders of the EU 27. A European Union more confident about its own region will be in a better position to project its values and protect its interests worldwide.

The post The Wider Europe: a time for experiments appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

How France and Germany created the EU corona recovery fund

Ideas on Europe Blog - Wed, 22/12/2021 - 11:04

The corona recovery fund, now formally known as Next Generation EU, has been the European Union’s (EU) most important response to the economic and social damages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unprecedently, the 27 member states entrusted the European Commission to borrow €750 billion and to allocate the money – in large parts in the form of grants – to the European countries hardest hit. Given member states’ opposing attitudes towards common debt and their different immediate reactions to the pandemic, the establishment of the Union’s corona recovery fund was remarkable. What explains the creation, timing, and scope of the recovery fund? Why was the Union able to agree on such comprehensive measures in a very short time?

Our article stresses the decisiveness of France and Germany – the Union’s “big two” – their tight bilateral political cooperation, and their crucial role in EU politics. We show why and how France and Germany, starting from different poles, came together and established joint positions on the corona crisis, paving the way for an overall European agreement. Applying and further advancing the “embedded bilateralism” approach, we find instances of crucial Franco-German leadership including agenda-setting, comprise-building, and coalition-building.


Franco-German leadership in the corona crisis

Agenda-setting: When the new coronavirus started spreading rapidly across Europe from late February 2020, member states, including France and Germany, initially took national measures for its containment. Deep divisions on the adequate European measures crystallized when France joined a group of other countries calling for the introduction of “corona bonds” while Germany advocated the use of existing instruments and credits only. In light of a dramatic downturn of the European economy, the pandemic would soon pose a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the EU.

French and German civil servants and policymakers – at first largely behind the scenes – started intensifying their bilateral consultations, seeking to overcome differences and find common ground. On 18 May 2020, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel proposed an EU recovery fund totalling €500billion, financed through common debt. The interviews we conducted for this research revealed that only a small number of people were involved in the preparations, with Macron and Merkel having had at least two direct exchanges per week since early April. France and Germany thus gave important political spin and weight to the upcoming “official” Commission proposal on a recovery instrument, released only nine days later.

Compromise-building: The Franco-German initiative most of all was a bilateral compromise in that both countries had developed joint positions and had deviated from previously held national positions. Germany, for its part, accepted the notion of common EU debt and direct financial transfers between member states. France, in turn, backed away from corona bonds and joint liability and agreed on tying the recovery fund to the EU’s regular budget with the respective political and economic conditions attached.

Beyond that, France and Germany represented larger camps of member states, taking their concerns and “red lines” into account. While France pushed for a rapid crisis response targeted at the particularly hit Southern countries, Germany – in line with other Northern countries – insisted the recovery fund to be a one-off instrument. When national leaders at their European Council meeting in mid-July signed off the recovery package proposed by the Commission, individual camps of member states – due to the unanimity required – obtained some concessions. The “Frugals” secured rebates on their contributions to the EU budget, while the Visegráds watered down provisions on a rule-of-law clause. Yet, the overall size and financing of the recovery package, as France and Germany had jointly advocated, remained.

Coalition-building: When Hungary and Poland in December 2020 still threatened to veto the package due to the planned conditionality clause, France-Germany signalled that they were willing, if needed, to move ahead with only 25 member states and establish the recovery fund on an intergovernmental basis. This threat of exclusion during political gridlock has had a prominent precedent from the time of the Eurozone crisis: When the British government vetoed the French-German proposal for new debt rules and a fiscal compact, the latter two moved ahead with a coalition of like-minded member states outside the EU’s regular framework.


Advancing European integration theory

France and Germany during the corona pandemic thus provided important leadership services. They gave guidance and orientation for an EU in deep crisis and enabled swift and collective action. Scrutinizing the two countries’ leadership role, our article advances the theoretical debate, especially about EU crisis politics. Scholars seeking to explain how the EU managed to find answers to pressing challenges or, by contrast, struggled to overcome joint-decision problems, usually invoke the grand theories of European integration: Supranationalists hold that Community institutions like the Commission enjoy great autonomy and, independently from member states, pursue policies leading to more integration. Intergovernmentalists, by contrast, claim that deliberation and consensus-seeking among all member states best address common problems.

However, these accounts often cannot explain why certain positions are established and how exactly moments of crisis can be overcome. The missing variable, we contend, is political leadership. Stressing the political dynamics between the national and European levels, the embedded bilateralism approach holds that France and Germany play a particularly important role in EU politics. As founding and the Union’s largest member states, they share a special responsibility for the European project. Embedded bilateralism shows why and how France and Germany, beyond their respective national preferences, at times develop common or even joint preferences, themselves being the result of their unique bilateral political relationship and role in Europe. Moreover, due to their overall size and joint resources – not least in economic and financial terms – these two countries can lay the groundwork for larger European compromises.

Other more recent EU crises show how difficult common solutions are if France and Germany themselves do not find together. The ongoing crisis in the EU’s migration and asylum system, for example, to date has led to little Franco-German leadership. Instead, we have seen instances of unilateral German action and half-hearted French support for a revision of the Schengen regime. Other than during the corona crisis, the two pivotal countries in the case of migration and asylum so far could not agree on joint political objectives and the adequate means to achieve them. As the corona crisis reminds us once again, without a prior Franco-German agreement the pre-structuring and shaping of larger European bargains and outcomes are difficult or unlikely.


This blog post draws on JCMS article, “Embedded Bilateralism, Integration Theory, and European Crisis Politics: France, Germany, and the Birth of the EU Corona Recovery Fund.”




Ulrich Krotz is Alfred Grosser Professor at the Center for International Studies (CERI) at Sciences Po Paris. He is the author of, among others, “Shaping Europe: France, Germany, and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysée Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics” (2013, with Joachim Schild), “History and Foreign Policy in France and Germany” (2015), and contributing co-editor of “Europe’s Cold War Relations: the EC Towards a Global Role (2020, with Kiran Klaus Patel and Federico Romero).


Lucas Schramm is a PhD Researcher at the European University Institute. In his dissertation, he analyses past and more recent political crises in the process of European integration, seeking to explain the variation in crisis outcomes. His recent publication includes the co-authored article “An Old Couple in a New Setting: Franco-German Leadership in the Post-Brexit EU” in Politics and Governance.

The post How France and Germany created the EU corona recovery fund appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Categories: European Union

European Commission’s Agenda-setting Influence

Ideas on Europe Blog - Tue, 21/12/2021 - 15:25

Who sets the European Union’s policy agenda? The complex nature of the EU’s legislative process, combined with the lack of a clear hierarchy among the core EU institutions, means that it is hard to disentangle the policy contributions of different institutions and determine which one is ultimately responsible for the legislative priorities of the Union.

The ever-increasing criticism of the “Euro-bureaucrats” and the democratic deficit in the EU, along with the policy influence wielded by the European Council during recent crises, complicated this picture even further, leading to competition between the EU institutions and their Presidents. This inter-institutional power struggle recently culminated in the infamous “Sofagate” incident in Turkey, exposing the tensions between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on the world stage.


Which institution sets the European Union’s policy agenda?

Even though the European Commission has the right of initiative, whether this ‘power of the pen’ gives the Commission a monopoly over the agenda-setting process has long been debated. This is because the Commission, despite its formal status, has often found itself competing with other actors and institutions to determine the legislative priorities of the European Union. In the meantime, the changes introduced in successive treaty revisions between the Maastricht Treaty (1993) and the Treaty of Lisbon (2009) have fundamentally altered institutional dynamics and inter-institutional relationships. While the Commission has retained its formal powers to introduce legislation, it has increasingly lacked the ability to shape the proposal once the process began. On the other hand, both the European Parliament (EP) and the European Council (EUCO) have gained new powers, in addition to the informal opportunities for agenda influence that they already enjoyed. While the EP works with the Council of the European Union (Council) to delay, amend, veto, or adopt legislation as the EU’s only directly elected body, EUCO identifies broad interests and sets general guidelines for the entire Union without any initiative from the Commission or any involvement by the Parliament.

The Commission’s resources, technical expertise, and status as an honest broker in European affairs still enhance its agenda-setting powers, making it possible for the Commission to correctly identify the policy preferences of the EP and the Council and strategically devise policy initiatives that both reflect its own priorities and have a high probability of success. This, however, creates an interesting puzzle: if the Commission must tailor its policy proposals to fit the preference configurations of the other core EU institutions to be successful, can we still talk about the Commission’s autonomous policy influence? Or should we interpret this strategic move as a sign that its independent influence is in decline? If the latter, should the Commission be seen more as a technical agenda-setter than a political one?

Indeed,  recent research suggests that the legislative priorities of the Commission are more and more frequently failing to be translated into EU polices by the other legislative actors, and this is especially when these priorities do not reflect the publicly announced priorities of the other core institutions. In fact, the likelihood of Commission priority initiatives being successful drops by more than 30 percent when it acts on its own. This decline is even steeper when the Commission attempts to propose initiatives aimed at introducing new policy arenas into the EU legal sphere, highlighting its strength as a provider of technical expertise, rather than its political agenda-setting capacity.


How much agenda-setting power does the Commission have?

This is not to say that the Commission is entirely dependent on other core EU institutions, however. Nearly sixty percent of the initiatives highlighted in the Commission’s Annual Work Programmes were translated into legislative outcomes between the years 2000 and 2014, which is substantial, though well below that of most EU member state executives to which the Commission is sometimes compared. Perhaps more importantly, almost forty percent of these lacked explicit congruence with the legislative priorities of the other core institutions.  Moreover, despite the clear impact of the changes wrought by the Lisbon treaty’s increase in the policy roles of the European Parliament and European Council, the relationship between the Commission and the Council remains the most critical one.

Having substantially more access to policy expertise than the other institutions, the Commission continues to hold a unique position within the EU institutional structure that’s helps it to chart the tumultuous political waters of inter-institutional policymaking within the Union. Nevertheless, because it lacks a direct role in the decision-making aspects of the policy process, is often unable to ensure its priority legislation is adopted.

Together these trends suggest that interpretations of the EU political system that ascribe the role of political executive to the Commission fundamentally misunderstand the Commission’s current role. The combination of an increasingly powerful and independent EP, and the formalization of the European Council, have combined to reduce the need for the unelected, often technocratic Commission to serve this function. While those who hope for a clear parliamentary-style EU with the Commission at its head may find this result dispiriting, perhaps the fact that the Commission is most successful in pursuing its policy objectives when these reflect the public priorities of the democratically elected EU institutions may reassure others hoping for a more democratic and electorally linked political executive.


This blog draws on the JCMS article “Power or Luck? The Limitations of the European Commission’s Agenda Setting Power and Autonomous Policy Influence



Buket Oztas an Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Furman University. Her research focuses on the changing institutional dynamics in predominantly Muslim countries, with particular interest in post-Islamism and transnational identities, and includes an ongoing research initiative on the agenda-setting powers of the European Commission.



Amie Kreppel is a Jean Monnet Chair (ad personam), Director of the Center for European Studies and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. She has served as President of the EUSA and has been both a Braudel Fellow at EUI and a Fulbright-Schuman Chair at the College of Europe.

Twitter handle: @akreppel

The post European Commission’s Agenda-setting Influence appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

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