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Informal Governance in the European Union

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Simona Piattoni

This book addresses an issue of paramount importance concerning the politics of the European Union: aspects of governance and policy making in the EU that are labelled ‘informal’. Much of the literature on the EU focuses on the formal facets of EU politics, but uniquely, the subject matter within this book deals with informal aspects such as: the role of personal relationships, the presence of non-hierarchical policy-networks and non-institutional channels of interest representation, and the relevance of the unwritten rules and routines which govern these aspects of EU politics.
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Chapter 7: Selling off the state and supranational regulation: informal governance in the EU

Raj S. Chari and Hilary McMahon


1 Raj S. Chari and Hilary McMahon INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVES One distinctive aspect of the EU as a supranational organization of states is its unique institutional and legal framework, which structures the relationship between its 15 members (Dinan 1994). However, what is also unique to policy-making in the EU is the undercurrent of informal governance that exists at both the domestic and supranational levels. Rhodes (1997) argued that we no longer have a mono-centric or unitary system where there is one centre of governance; rather, we are left with many centres linking the two different levels. The political system of the EU, he argues, changed original power dependency theory, whereby we are now faced with a relationship of interdependence between various actors operating at different levels and across cleavages. Such actors, including both private and public officials, form what are known as ‘policy networks’ whereby participation is limited and there are defined roles: actors have the power to decide whether issues are included on or excluded from the agenda, and the subsequent nature of policy-making input and output dynamics transcend formal rules. The hypothesis of informal governance is based on similar criteria, bringing in new actors at a multitude of levels. As discussed in Chapter 1 of this volume, informal governance may be defined as the operation of networks of (like-minded) individuals and groups pursuing common goals through regular, though non-codified and not publicly sanctioned, exchanges in the EU institutional context. These networks are essential to the proper governing of...

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