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 21: Informal Governance and the Rome Treaties

Thomas Gijswijt


Thomas Gijswijt INTRODUCTION Informal governance is a useful concept for historians, because it forces them to deal with some of the least-understood aspects of European integration, a process which, after all, is the result of a complex interplay between people, interests and ideas on different levels of decision-making and governance (Christiansen et al. 2003, p. 1). I shall argue in this chapter that particularly in times of profound institutional change, a multitude of official as well as unofficial actors on different national and transnational stages engage in informal modes of governance and diplomacy. Yet the ways in which the European Union is often studied preclude an understanding of informal governance. The historical literature on European integration in particular is heavily reliant on research in the official archives of national governments and the European Union. Inevitably, the official view from Paris, Bonn/Berlin, London or Brussels predominates, while the informal dimensions of European integration remain mostly out of sight. Such a perspective almost inevitably ignores or oversimplifies the interaction between national leaders and bureaucracies, European officials, interest groups, nongovernmental networks and the ideas and interests they represent – what Keith Middlemas has called ‘the informal politics of the European Union’ (Middlemas et al. 1995). What is more, the realization that informal governance takes place in the transnational and supranational space created by the process of European integration provides an important counterweight to the predominant national governmental perspective. This is not to say that the national level is not important: rather, national decision-making processes...

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