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Deliberation All the Way Up

Uwe Puetter has written a fascinating article due to come out in the Journal of European Public Policy this year that relates to the role of the European Council and the Council in giving leadership to economic governance. His essential argument is that in the absence of formal extensions of EU competence in the economic sphere, we have instead witnessed not mere intergovernmental cooperation but rather an increasingly intense form of “deliberative” intergovernmentalism. There is something important here.
For many scholars of the EU, anything that departs from the classic Community Method is dumped in the garbage can of “soft” governance. We really need to stop using the term “soft” either in respect of law or of governance. It is completely meaningless with no analytical content whatsoever. It turns out that as soon as you depart from the archetypal “hard” governance by hierarchy through law, it’s all soft. Analytically this is really just mush. I digress. Puetter’s point is that in the realm of EU policy coordination there is a paradoxical desire for more EU solutions while holding onto domestic competence: the result is that there is more intense intergovernmental cooperation the more there is a demand for EU solutions. But what is important about the example of economic governance is that this intense deliberative intergovernmentalism goes all the way up to the level of the European Council.
When we look across to EU social policy coordination, there is perhaps less of a desire for European solutions to domestic social problems and hence intergovernmental cooperation has remained relatively loose. And while social policy coordination has emphasised deliberation all the way down and all the way across, it has perhaps less successfully engaged the elite level of the European Council. Perhaps it is for this reason that while policy coordination in economic governance is both deepening and widening, in the social policy sphere it is in crisis.

3 Responses to Deliberation All the Way Up

  1. avatar Andrej says:

    I agree that “soft” is no analytical category whatsover, but what would be an alternative concept? Since there is none…
    Obviously, “deliberative intergovernementalism” cannot really fill the gap. The difference to the “classic” approach of LI is not clear: Liberal ingovernementalists might simply argue, that just because grand bargains have been discredited by the Treaty fatigue of all actors, now the European Council seeks to exploit the many informal options it has. But still, preferences to expand economic governance are exogenous (time-lagged currency union spillovers and ad-hoc crisis management), they’re not simply “growing” due to deliberation, aren’t they? And given the technocratic scope of current ideas for the March summit, the paradox might not be that paradoxical.
    Anyway to make this argument one would need a second policy for comparison. Though, to compare economic governance and social policy coordination is hardly fair. Among other reasons, just because it lacks a “nucleus” integration project such as the common currency, EU social policy coordination must necessarily loose out.

  2. avatar kennetha says:

    Hard/soft is dichotomous and therefore problematic in either managing governance modes that are different from one another (hierarchy, markets, networks) or are different manifestations of similar governance tools (legislation, recommendations, codes of conduct etc). Why do we need an alternative dichotomy when what we need is greater reflection on whether the thing we are analysing is really of the same time as the thing we are contrasting it against.
    As for delibverative supranationalism, it is not for me to defend the term or concept. But what I think Puetter is pointing to is the idea that under conditions of uncertainty, governance is more likely to be deliverative and that is now going all the way up. This is different from a classical reading of LI in which preferences are aggregated from the bottom up and then bargained out. Now the conditions upon which bargaining versus deliberation takes plac require articlation and comparison (not sure why social policy doesn’t seem to count). And the role of other actors like the Commission or advocacy coalitions requires exploration. But I think this is an interesting development to which we ought to pay attention.

  3. avatar Andrej says:

    Well, I admit, I have to read the Puetter paper first and I am looking forward to do so. Still, it is somewhat surprising to expect growing deliberation out of increased uncertainty. For sure, constructivists like Risse would support this reasoning saying that uncertainty about appropriate role behaviour might induce an inclination to consensual behavior (e.g. Risse/Kleine JEPP 2010). Alas, with a more rationalist take this is less convincing. So to separate deliberation and bargaing per se will very much depend upon your theoretical perspective (sse Warntjen JEPP 2010). So perhaps, in my limited vies, I just don’t really buy the dichotomy of deliberation and bargaing. However, you might say that even from a rationalist perspective, if uncertainty also means uncertainty about domestic preferences (e.g. “how best to react to financial crisis” etc.), then there might a case in point to argue that deliberation helps to clarify these “on the fly”. But then, the current struggle about feeding up economic governance (i.e. the SGP though you better not mention it) does not corroborates the assumption that the leading actors would not know (yet) their genuine preferences.
    As to social policy, I just wonder whether social OMC actors simply did not succeed in “involving the elite level of the European Council” to make their case or whether it is simply salience that counts. As Scharpf and others would say, if the logic of EU integration has something to do with balancing external effects, then economic and social policy integration belong to very different camps.
    But I understand, the interesting point here is if uncertainty in any given policy leads to more european solutions per se, or “in crisis, pro EU”.

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