Differential Responses to European Policies: A Comparison

33 Pages Posted: 23 May 2001

See all articles by Adrienne Heritier

Adrienne Heritier

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)

Christoph Knill

University of Konstanz; University of Jena - Institute of Political Science

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Date Written: March 2000


Community legislation is unquestionably a factor to be reckoned with in member-state policy making. But the extent and mode of its impact on domestic policies and administrative structures will depend on the existing policy practices and the political and institutional structures of the country in question. In cases where there is a mismatch between an established policy of a member state and a clearly specified European policy mandate, there will be an expectation to adjust, which in turn constitutes a precondition for change.

Assuming the existence of a need for change, the ability to adapt will depend on the policy preferences of key actors, and the capacity of institutions to implement reform, realize policy change, and administratively adjust to European requirements. The policy preferences of key actors are influenced by the distributional consequences of the policies to be adopted (Milner 1996); the capacity to change depends on the degree of integrated political leadership, caused by a lack of formal veto points (Tsebelis 1995), or a decisional tradition capable of surmounting formal and factual veto points by way of consensual tripartite decision making. Where there is a divergence of mismatch between European and national policies, and the policy preferences of political leaders are defined by a willingness to adapt, the absence of formal veto points and a cooperative decisional tradition will enhance the capacity to change and to adjust administrative structures in compliance with European policy mandates. The most far-reaching consequence - tantamount to innovation - is the replacement of old administrative structures with a comprehensive set of new ones. A less far-reaching form of adjustment occurs by "tinkering at the edges of old structures" (Lanzara 1998, 40), whereby new administrative units are patched onto existing organizational structures in order to accommodate the Europe-imposed policies. Another important measure of change is whether public actors, public and private actors, or only private actors are engaged in administering the sector and whether administrative functions pass from one form to another. By contrast, the existence of a high number of formal or de facto veto points, which are not compensated by consensual decision-making patterns, makes adjustment to European policy demands more difficult and administrative change less probable because bids for change are blocked by veto players. This poses no problem as long as there is a basic congruence between the national policy, its administrative implementation structures, and European policy demands, one that allows the latter to be smoothly absorbed into current procedures and structures. If, however, there is a clear mismatch between national policiesand European policy demands, political structures ridden with formal and factual veto points and the absence of cooperative decisional traditions will lead to non-implementation and in consequence to no, or only marginal, change in administrative structures.

Suggested Citation

Heritier, Adrienne and Knill, Christoph, Differential Responses to European Policies: A Comparison (March 2000). Max-Planck Project Group Preprint, No. 2000/7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=270273 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.270273

Adrienne Heritier (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)

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Christoph Knill

University of Konstanz ( email )

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University of Jena - Institute of Political Science ( email )

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