International Handbook on Informal Governance
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International Handbook on Informal Governance

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold

Acknowledging that governance relies not only on formal rules and institutions but to a significant degree also on informal practices and arrangements, this unique Handbook examines and analyses a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and normative perspectives on informal governance.
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Chapter 20: Informal Governance in the EU: The European Commission versus the European Parliament

Jeffrey Stacey


Jeffrey Stacey INTRODUCTION The European Union (EU) is a veritable laboratory for examining a large constellation of formal and informal institutions. Even in the wake of Europe’s debt crisis and the overall global financial crisis, after widespread predictions that the 2009 Lisbon Treaty would be the last significant overhaul of EU institutions, in 2011 EU member states agreed to a spate of new formal institutions in its overhauled financial bailout mechanism. The year before a new set of informal institutions were created in a bilateral agreement between the European Commission and the European Parliament, a ritual that seems to follow every new amending treaty and proceedings following Lisbon’s ratification were no different. As policymakers have long known and scholars have become increasingly aware, informal governance abounds in the EU. Although the European Parliament is rightfully seen as the prime mover behind the EU’s informal governance, there is a great deal at stake for its policy-making counterparts: the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. The Parliament tends to aim its influence attempts in the EU’s informal sphere primarily at the Council, but the Commission has also figured prominently in these dynamics. This chapter looks specifically at this trend and its impact on the Commission, and in the process makes an argument that as a political actor the Commission has not fared well. In terms of political sparring in the informal sphere of the EU, for a variety of reasons the Commission has lost ground in the competition over policy and...

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