Governance and Intergovernmental Relations in the European Union and the United States
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Governance and Intergovernmental Relations in the European Union and the United States

Theoretical Perspectives

Edited by Edoardo Ongaro, Andrew Massey, Marc Holzer and Ellen Wayenberg

This book represents a major attempt to draw together two fundamental streams of research: intergovernmental relations and multi-level governance (MLG). Combining US and European schools of thought, this timely volume outlines key areas of convergence and divergence.
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Chapter 2: Intergovernmental Relations or Multi-level Governance? Transatlantic Comparisons and Reflections

Alberta M. Sbragia


1 Alberta M. Sbragia Are intergovernmental relations (IGR) in the US (US) and the European Union (EU) comparable? Does it make sense to try to compare such different systems? Those questions are pertinent because both the EU and the US are thought to be unique in their institutional structure. They are often viewed as sui generis and therefore, by definition, unable to be studied within a comparative perspective. In fact, there is relatively little work which puts either the EU or the US into a comparative framework, and work which explicitly compares the two is even scarcer. Not surprisingly, therefore, the study of IGR typically focuses on either the US or the EU. In this chapter, by contrast, we compare IGR in the two systems in an effort to push forward a comparative effort which may illuminate ‘taken for granted’ characteristics of the two systems. THE EUROPEAN UNION The EU, for its part, is neither a traditional state nor is it a traditional international organization. It is sui generis in that it hovers somewhere between a state and an international organization. Although the EU is very important when it comes to domestic intra-EU policy, regulatory policies in particular, it is much less powerful when it comes to external relations. Although it is powerful in the area of trade policy, it is much less relevant in many other areas of external policy. It is not, for example, a member of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations or the World Bank....

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