Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn
Chapter 13: The European Union as a Loosely Coupled Multi-level System
13 The European Union as a loosely coupled multilevel system Arthur Benz 13.1 INTRODUCTION The characterization of the European Union (EU) as a multi-level system of governance resulted from controversies about the nature of this political system emerging from European integration. In the wake of the treaty reforms during the 1990s, the EU has progressed beyond a confederation of states towards a particular kind of multi-level system. The Union fulfills a great deal of state functions, but to date it has not evolved into a new supranational state. Whereas a state has legislative power and the power to implement its laws in its jurisdiction, most policies of the EU can only be made by joint or coordinated decisions of European and national institutions. Therefore, the EU deviates from the usual structures of a federal state. Whenever it is designated as a multi-level political system sui generis, two particular traits are emphasized: one is its hybrid character resulting from the combination of federal-like structures in the areas of ‘supranational’ policy-making and confederal structures in arenas of intergovernmental cooperation. On the other hand, the term multi-level governance indicates the interlocking between the European, the national and the subnational levels. This second aspect led Fritz W. Scharpf to transfer the concept of joint decisionmaking from theories on German federalism to European politics (Scharpf 1988). Later, when the regions arrived on the European scene and the interplay between levels became more complex through the invention of new modes of coordination, the term multi-level governance...
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